AANP President On Nurse Practitioner Leadership

On June 25, Stephen Ferrara, DNP, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, succeeded April N. Kapu, DNP, as president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

“I look forward to serving as a representative of our nation’s 355,000 nurse practitioners and the millions of patients they care for,” said Ferrara, who is also associate dean of clinical affairs and associate professor at Columbia University’s School of Nursing, in a statement. “As faculty and a member of the executive leadership team at Columbia Nursing, I will collaborate with stakeholders at the national level to find solutions to solve the health issues that plague our health care system — namely, access to equitable, culturally competent, and just health care.”

Ferrara’s Early Years in Nursing

During an interview with nursing coach Ann Konkoly following his appointment, Ferrara discussed his decision to become a nurse.

“I always wanted to be in the sciences as a young student,” he said. “I had thought about all the health professions — medicine, physical therapy, pharmacy, and nursing. I attribute my decision to my aunt, who all along had been saying, ‘Why don’t you look at nursing?’”

At first, however, he didn’t listen because of a lack of awareness of the nursing field and its functions.

“I did blow her off,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘I don’t know about that.’ And to be very honest, I did not know what a nurse was and what a nurse did as a non-nurse, as an 18-year-old person.”

The more he learned, however, the more attractive the field became.

“It made a lot of sense to me once the stigma was broken down, and I saw firsthand what nursing was,” he said.

Ferrara worked as a nurse for about a year and a half before going back to school to become a nurse practitioner (NP). Ferrara’s clinical focus has always been primary care, with an emphasis on prevention and wellness. He began his NP career in a college health setting, helping students navigate being ill for the first time when their parents weren’t around. He also worked in occupational health in a health system and as an NP in a correctional system.

In an interview with Clinical Advisor, Ferraro was asked what he would like to say to his aunt who got him interested in nursing.

“I would just say thank you, Aunt Julie, for recommending this career path for me,” he said. “Even though I didn’t believe that is where I wanted to be initially, I’m forever grateful. I still speak with her today about my career path. She’s quite proud.”

Full Practice Authority Granted While Ferrara Was Executive Director

Ferrara has practiced for 23 years as a nurse practitioner. He has been in leadership positions, including as the associate dean of clinical affairs at Columbia School of Nursing, and oversees the nurse practitioner primary care faculty practice, which was the first NP-run practice in the U.S.

In addition to that role, he also teaches health policy for doctor of nursing practice (DNP) students at the Columbia School of Nursing and is the editor-in-chief of The Journal of Doctoral Nursing Practice. Throughout his career, he has been involved in nurse practitioner organizations, having served for 10 years as the executive director of the Nurse Practitioner Association (NPA) of New York State and 7 years on the board of directors at AANP.

During his tenure as executive director of NPA, he successfully advocated for the passage of full practice authority in New York State. He was motivated by the frustration he felt in what he called “arbitrary limitations” in his practice. Knowing that it had to change, he tried to understand the legislative process. For years, he has participated in The NPA’s annual Capitol Day, visiting Albany with other NPs and NP students to meet with state legislators.

“It is not easy to understand because there’s a way that it’s supposed to work, and then there is the reality of how it really works,” he explained. “The advantage for me was that I could say I was a practicing clinician, and here is the issue. The process was a long one and even predated my participation on the board.”

“The hardest part was convincing lawmakers. We had the data. The data about nurse practitioners, and I know that there are detractors out there who will say the data was flawed. But the reality is there is no other data that proves otherwise…The other challenge was keeping fellow nurse practitioners motivated. When you’re talking about a 10-year time period, that’s frustrating to people.”

Advice Ferrara Has for Nurses Seeking Leadership Positions

Konkoly spoke with Ferrara about his decision to run for president of AANP and what motivated him to become involved with national organizations.

“My disclaimer is I was not one to fully embrace the whole idea of a nurse practitioner organization,” he said. “I blame one of my mentors for basically grabbing me and saying you’re coming with me, and you are going to get involved. And I have employed that tactic too for people that I’ve had the pleasure to mentor.”

Ferrara became animated when asked what advice he would give to people who were looking at becoming involved in a leadership position.

“I would always encourage someone who’s desiring to move into one of those positions to try it,” he said. “At the very least, if you can get an interview, it’s an interview that you’re able to experience, and if you don’t get the role, it’s something you can learn for the next time.”

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