Interview with Kristen Campbell – Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

The most rewarding aspect of working in pediatric medicine is the kids! I love playing games with a 3 year old to assess his neurological status after a head injury. I love making up stories and singing Frozen’s “Let It Go” to distract a 6 year old as I put in her first stitches. I love that, even at their sickest, most kids still have hope and want to play. No matter how busy or difficult a day is, there will always be another kid that will walk through the door and put a smile on your face.

About Kristen Campbell: Kristen Campbell is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at New York Methodist Hospital. As a PNP, Ms. Campbell provides medical evaluations and care to acute and subacute patients with ages ranging from newborns to 20 years old. Several of her core responsibilities in this role include conducting physical and psychological assessments, making medical diagnoses, writing prescriptions, conducting follow-ups and referrals, coordinating patient intakes and transfers, and performing standard emergency care procedures such as laceration repairs and splinting. In addition to her clinical work with patients, she also engages in clinical education of nursing and medical students as a Clinical Faculty member at Columbia University. Prior to her role at New York Methodist Hospital, Ms. Campbell worked as a Clinical Nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she served patients in both the Hematology, Oncology, Bone Marrow Transplant Department, as well as the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Ms. Campbell earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Development with an emphasis in Community, Advocacy, & Social Policy from Boston College in 2007, and her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from Columbia University’s School of Nursing in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Interview Questions

[] Before we launch into the main questions, may we have a brief description of your educational and professional path?

[Kristen Campbell] I studied Human Development and Psychology at Boston College for undergrad. After realizing nursing was a perfect fit for me, I tackled the BSN-MSN program at Columbia University, taking a year off to begin working as an RN before starting my Masters. My first nursing job was in the PICU at New York Presbyterian’s Children’s Hospital. I spent time in both the PICU and the Heme/Onc/BMT units while completing my Masters degree and becoming a board certified pediatric nurse practitioner. I was hired as a PNP in the Pediatric Emergency Department at New York Methodist shortly after graduation and have been working, learning, and teaching there ever since. I have maintained my relationship with Columbia University by taking PNP students in the ER for the past 2 years.

[] Could you please describe your role and responsibilities as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for New York Methodist Hospital’s Pediatric Emergency Department? What kinds of medical conditions and challenges do your patients face, and how do you help them manage their conditions?

[Kristen Campbell] As a PNP in the Pediatric ED, I am responsible for assessing the physical and psychological status of acute and sub-acute patients. During an assessment, I evaluate a patient’s history, conduct a physical exam, and order and interpret diagnostic tests. I diagnose and initiate appropriate treatments for any patient under 21 years of age, whether they are a 3 day old with hyperbilirubinemia or a 20 year old with an ectopic pregnancy. I independently perform standard emergency room procedures such as laceration repair, splinting of non-displaced or reduced fractures, incision and drainage of abscess, and foreign body removal; I also provide procedural sedation, reduce displaced fractures, and perform lumbar punctures in collaboration with our attending physicians.

On a typical day, our team is made up of an ED attending physician, a pediatric nurse practitioner, a pediatric or emergency medicine resident, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow, two nurses, a tech, and some students. I am fortunate to work with a relatively small and very tight team. Each person has a role but we overlap in our responsibilities constantly, always working together to provide the best and most efficient care for our kids and their families.

[] You are also a Clinical Faculty Member at Columbia University School of Nursing, where you teach nursing students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Could you elaborate on the classes and clinical skills you teach, and what advice you give nursing students who are interested in pediatric nursing care?

[Kristen Campbell] Although I only teach graduate students, I am in a unique position of having mostly students without nursing experience. Because many of my students did the combined BS-MSN program without taking time to work between them, they often lack experience with nursing skills such as medication administration, blood draws, peripheral IV placement, and urine catheterization. Since patients in the ER often need things quickly, I like to make sure my students feel proficient in obtaining access, drawing up meds, etc. Beyond nursing skills, students rotating in our ER learn the importance of being a team player, recognizing and prioritizing critical patients, and managing multiple simple and complex cases at the same time. The last thing I always hope my students will take away from a rotation with me is the drive to make each child and family feel like they’re important and have been well cared for. No matter how busy your ER is, no matter how insignificant or serious a particular patient’s complaint is, I always hope that each family I care for leaves the ER comfortable with and in full understanding of their treatment and plan.

[] Why did you decide to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, and what academic and professional experiences helped you determine that this area of advanced practice nursing was the right one for you?

[Kristen Campbell] I’ve always loved working with kids. When I was 13, I started volunteering at the children’s hospital in my town and was chosen to work in the pediatric oncology unit. I fell in love with it. In college, I started off and completed pre-requisites for medical school, with a plan to become a pediatric oncologist. However, I also began volunteering at a school for kids with severe special needs and at a camp for kids living with HIV/AIDS and fell in love with those populations as well. I realized I wasn’t only interested in the science and medicine aspects, and discovered how important advocacy, connection, psychosocial issues, and holistic care were to me. I ended up majoring in Human Development with a focus on Community, Advocacy, and Social Policy and a minor in Psychology. I thought about social work, child life, and child psych before realizing nursing was a perfect fit. The world of nursing focuses on health, healing, treatment, and advocacy in a way that feels balanced, holistic, and empowering. All of a sudden, becoming a nurse made so much more sense than med school. I was accepted to Columbia’s Entry to Practice program for a combined BSN-MSN and haven’t looked back since.

[] What is the difference between acute care pediatric nursing and primary care pediatric nursing? During your BSN/MSN program at Columbia University, did you consider both areas of pediatric nursing, and if so, why did you decide to pursue acute and subacute pediatric care specifically?

[Kristen Campbell] For me, primary care is more about promoting health and wellness and acute/subacute care is more about treating and managing illness and injury. While studying to become a nurse practitioner, I had the opportunity to learn in primary care settings for healthy children and children who have beaten cancer as well as in acute care settings including the PICU, cardiac step down, and the ER. I learned from wonderful nurse practitioners who care for children in all stages of health and illness with compassion and wisdom. Personally, I have always been drawn to specialized populations with complex health needs so I could only see myself practicing primary care for children with chronic conditions or illnesses. I have so much respect for pediatric providers working hard to provide comprehensive and preventative primary care, but I personally prefer managing illness in a holistic manner.

Starting my career as a nurse in the PICU and Heme/Onc/Bone Marrow Transplant units, I spent time caring for very sick children and learning to manage very complex cases. I spent time with families who didn’t know if their children would live to see the morning. I learned ventilator settings, vasopressor support, dialysis, intracranial drains, central lines, blood products, and chemotherapy agents. I learned what critical care really means.

As a nurse practitioner, I have stayed in acute care but transitioned to the emergency department. I chose to start my NP career in the ER because I had such a great experience during my clinical rotation there and couldn’t imagine a better group of people to learn from and work with. The team at Methodist is hard-working, knowledgeable, and compassionate. In the ER, you have to move and think fast, prioritizing the acute patients and caring for any child who walks in the door. In Brooklyn, no complaint is too big or small for the emergency room. I see everything from “too much earwax” and “fever of 99.5” to heart arrhythmias, status epilepticus, and neonatal sepsis. Working in the ER, you have some days where you provide primary care, counseling mothers of newborns on normal feeding or teenagers on safe sex practices, and other days where you are literally saving lives. I feel very proud to be part of such a passionate team, very blessed to go to work and learn something new each day, and very honored to care for such a diverse group of children and young adults.

[] What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of working in pediatric primary care nursing? On the other hand, what specific challenges have you encountered in this field of work, and how have you managed these challenges?

[Kristen Campbell] The most rewarding aspect of working in pediatric medicine is the kids! I love playing games with a 3 year old to assess his neurological status after a head injury. I love making up stories and singing Frozen’s “Let It Go” to distract a 6 year old as I put in her first stitches. I love that, even at their sickest, most kids still have hope and want to play. No matter how busy or difficult a day is, there will always be another kid that will walk through the door and put a smile on your face.

But even children come with challenges. Every pediatric provider will have to learn to navigate childhood anxiety, demanding and/or overbearing families, and a devastating diagnosis for or even the loss of a young patient. Pediatric nursing is challenging and rewarding every single day. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

[] For current and prospective MSN students who are interested in becoming pediatric nurse practitioners, what advice can you give them about optimally preparing for this field while pursuing their degree?

[Kristen Campbell] My best advice is to say yes and be proactive! Take the opportunities that are given to you and seek out the experiences you feel passionately about. The more experience and exposure you get, the more you will learn what your interests are and how to care for others. Spending time in various settings and with different populations will help you find out what fills your cup. Take on volunteer work and externships, but only if you want to. Your heart has to be in it for it to be a worthwhile experience. Learning how to engage patients and families, how to have difficult conversations, and how recognize different levels of acuity will be invaluable as you start your career.

Whether you’re in school, working as an RN, or just starting out as an NP, remember to breathe! Take time for yourself and know your support system and your outlets. Whether it’s yoga, journaling, meditation, exercise, a good book, date night, dancing, or roller derby (my personal choice), you need to care for yourself to be able to care for others. You will have days that exhaust you and cases that break your heart, but have confidence in yourself and know that all the challenges are worth it.

Thank you Ms. Campbell for participating in our APRN career guide interview series!

About the Author: Kaitlin Louie is the Managing Editor of, and creates informational content that aims to assist students in making informed decisions about graduate programs. She earned her BA & MA in English from Stanford University.