Interview with Shanda Wilson Sandridge, MSN, CPNP-AC - Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

My role in the Pediatric Weight and Wellness clinic is to see children who are overweight and screen for other co-morbidities such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia, HTN, PCOS and pre-diabetes. I work in collaboration with a psychologist, dietitian, and soon an exercise physiologist in multidisciplinary clinics. I am currently creating treatment protocols for the clinic and will soon be starting a Telehealth clinic to reach out to patients who are unable to drive long distances for appointments.

About Shanda Wilson Sandridge, MSN, CPNP-AC: Shanda Wilson Sandridge is a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner within the Pediatric Gastroenterology Department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). Within Gastroenterology, she focuses on both Motility Disorders and Pediatric Obesity, assisting patients and their families through medical interventions, education, and regular health assessments. Prior to her role in gastroenterology, Ms. Sandridge worked as a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner in the Pediatric/Fetal Surgery Department at UMMC, where she cared for pregnant women experiencing abnormal pregnancies by monitoring their health, coordinating deliveries, and conducting medical tests and follow-ups as needed. Before becoming a nurse practitioner, Ms. Sandridge was a Staff Registered Nurse at UMMC, working in the Batson Specialty Clinic, where she worked across a variety of specialized medical settings, as well as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Ms. Sandridge earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Science from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and her MSN in Pediatric Acute Care Nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Interview Questions

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Could you please give us an overview of your professional path in advanced practice nursing and pediatric acute care nursing?

[Shanda Wilson Sandridge, MSN, CPNP-AC] I began my nursing career in 2005 as an ADN. I worked for 2 years in the NICU at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. During my time as a new nurse, I began slowly working on my Bachelor’s degree in nursing. In 2007, I finished my degree at the University of Mississippi Medical Center while working and taking mostly online classes.

After a few years of working 12 hour shifts, I was offered a job as a clinic nurse in the Batson Specialty clinic where multiple pediatric specialists have clinic. At the clinic, I was able to work with doctors and nurses from specialties including Gastroenterology, Neurology, Genetics, Endocrine, Psychiatry, Infectious Disease, and Allergy. There I found out that there were so many other areas within pediatrics that were engaging for me. After a few years, I decided to pursue a career as a Nurse Practitioner. In 2010, I completed my Master’s Degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham with an emphasis as a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. After passing boards, I began work with Pediatric/Fetal Surgery where I worked closely with a fetal surgeon. My job included taking care of pregnant mothers who were carrying babies with fetal anomalies. Other duties included coordinating deliveries and making certain that all prenatal testing and planning was done and carried out after delivery. I followed these babies before and after delivery to ensure that the mother and the baby’s needs were met until discharge. Other duties included providing inpatient consults on general surgery service and doing pre-op for patients before surgery.

In 2012, I began work in Pediatric Gastroenterology as a nurse practitioner. My main job is seeing patients in the outpatient setting with general GI problems, such as GERD, constipation, abdominal pain, etc. I have recently shifted my focus from seeing only patients with GI problems and am helping in the development of a new Pediatric Obesity program.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Could you please describe your role and responsibilities as a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner in the Pediatric Gastroenterology Department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center? What kinds of medical conditions and challenges do your patients face, and how do you help them manage their conditions?

[Shanda Wilson Sandridge, MSN, CPNP-AC] I work in several different roles in the Pediatric Gastroenterology division. I split my time between working with a new Pediatric Obesity Program and the Pediatric Motility Program. I also have 1 outpatient clinic where I see patients with general GI complaints such as abdominal pain, GERD, constipation, etc.

My role in the motility program includes working closely with a motility specialist and performing and assisting with motility procedures. One of the procedures I perform independently is Anorectal Manometry. This test is done on children that have chronic constipation and/or fecal incontinence. After inserting a catheter into the rectum we are able see how the muscles and nerves work in the rectum. If the muscles are not being used correctly, we offer pelvic floor biofeedback or neuromuscular re-education using EMG stickers. These exercises teach children how to properly use and coordinate muscles during defecation.

My role in the Pediatric Weight and Wellness clinic is to see children who are overweight and screen for other co-morbidities such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia, HTN, PCOS and pre-diabetes. I work in collaboration with a psychologist, dietitian, and soon an exercise physiologist in multidisciplinary clinics. I am currently creating treatment protocols for the clinic and will soon be starting a Telehealth clinic to reach out to patients who are unable to drive long distances for appointments.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Could you provide an overview of your work environment, the patients you saw, and how you collaborated with colleagues when you were a nurse practitioner within UMMC’s Pediatric/Fetal Surgery Department? How did this setting and the structure of medical care delivery differ from those of the Pediatric Gastroenterology Department at which you currently work?

[Shanda Wilson Sandridge, MSN, CPNP-AC] As a Nurse Practitioner in Fetal Surgery, I worked closely on a multidisciplinary team that included Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM), ECMO specialist, Neonatologist, Surgeons, Palliative Care, and Social Work. Our job was to take care of pregnant women who were carrying babies with fetal anomalies and ensure that the Mom and Baby were taken care of pre and post-natal. Each week the team would meet to discuss each patient and to plan upcoming deliveries. Our team would often perform routine prenatal care and routine ultrasonography prior to delivery. Our patients were also allowed to meet with a genetic counselor prior to delivery to screen for potential risks in future pregnancies. If a patient needed surgery before delivery or immediately after delivery I would coordinate the delivery with the surgeons, ECMO team, NICU, and MFM to make sure things were done as smoothly as possible to help decrease complications and delayed care. I also followed the baby closely after surgery each day during rounds until he or she was discharged home. Most babies were sent to the NICU after delivery where the neonatology and surgical teams managed the care of the newborn until they were able to be discharged. Besides working in the Fetal Center my role also included performing inpatient consults on general pediatric surgery patients in the Children’s Hospital.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] 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?

[Shanda Wilson Sandridge, MSN, CPNP-AC] I worked part-time at a daycare while I was in nursing school and knew early on that I wanted to continue working with children. During my RN clinicals, I had the opportunity to rotate among different clinical specialties and was able to get experience in different aspects of healthcare. During my rotation at the Children’s Hospital, I remember having the most fun. The pediatric nurses were able to wear fun clothes, have parties, and act silly while still treating some of the sickest patients in the hospital. Children are resilient, forgiving, and will smile and just make you laugh. The children definitely make it easy to come to work each day. My time spent nursing in the NICU and at the Pediatric Specialty clinic helped confirm that my passion was definitely working with children.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] What is the difference between acute care pediatric nursing and primary care pediatric nursing? Did you consider both areas of pediatric nursing during your MSN program, and if so, why did you decide to pursue pediatric acute care specifically?

[Shanda Wilson Sandridge, MSN, CPNP-AC] The primary care NP track covers routine provider visits, such as acute illnesses, vaccinations, growth and development, and wellness visits. Some Primary care NPs work in specialty areas such as ENT or Allergy clinics. They are also seen in school based clinics or Health Departments. The acute care track primarily focuses on the acute setting, such as hospitals, ICU, ER, and surgical areas. When choosing which track to pursue I had to weigh the options of both primary and acute care tracks. I had to consider the job market in my area when making my final decision. Since I work at the state’s only children’s hospital, I knew that the acute care setting was a better option for me given my background.

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

[Shanda Wilson Sandridge, MSN, CPNP-AC] There are many challenges that nurses face when making the leap on to the next step of the ladder. The biggest challenge I faced when transitioning from a nurse to nurse practitioner was not having the self-confidence to make critical decisions independently regarding patient care. Initially it was difficult for me to be “the one” making decisions because for so long in my nursing career, there were other people making the decisions for me. I wanted someone to tell me what to do even though I already knew what needed to be done. Further into my career as an NP it became much easier to make those difficult decisions and I realized that if there was something I wasn’t sure of, all I have to do is ask.

Stepping into the role of an NP can overwhelming because the roles are so different and vary from state to state. While some states allow NPs to practice independently others have restricted practice. Not all disciplines see nurse practitioners as having a role in the healthcare system. There are national and state organizations that have the sole purpose of advocating for nurses and NPs. These organizations focus on practice issues, public relations, and lobby with state legislatures. My advice is to get involved with these organizations early on so that you can have a better understanding of what is going on around us in healthcare.

[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] 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?

[Shanda Wilson Sandridge, MSN, CPNP-AC] Writing classes may be helpful before starting an MSN program if you do not have strong writing skills. There are a lot of writing assignments and projects in the MSN program and it may be helpful when taking the GRE. Health fairs are also a great way to get community service hours and is a way to network with other potential students. I would also advise to get as much clinical experience as possible and rotate among different specialties if possible. More than likely you will use every bit of your clinical experience to some degree during your career. Do not be afraid to jump in and get your hands dirty during clinicals even if you are sharing time with another student. This is the only time you will have someone to tell you what is normal and abnormal. Preceptors love when you ask questions. Get comfortable taking a history and physical exam during your rotations and do it over and over again and do not be afraid to speak up if you think that something does not seem right. You never know when you might save a life.

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


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About the Author: Kaitlin Louie is the Managing Editor of OnlineFNPPrograms.com, 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.