Working as a pediatric nurse, Heather Buzbee “wanted to do more.” That desire to contribute is reflected in her professional work and her contributions to the profession.
Heather provides care for the under-resourced population as a Pediatric Psych NP at Sea Mar Community Health Center and as needed in pediatric telehealth at Brightline.
She also gives her time to advance the profession, as a member of the AAPPN Education Committee, as President of the Washington Chapter of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and as a UW affiliate faculty member.
Prior to becoming a PNP, Heather worked as a nurse in a hospital setting. To expand her ability to care for pediatric patients, she went back to school and earned a MSN at the University of Colorado in 2017. While working as a PNP in primary care, she saw a great need for mental health care for pediatric patients, sought further training, and obtained a post-Master’s certificate in PMHN from Johns Hopkins University in 2020.
What inspired you to become a nurse and to move on to become a pediatric NP and pediatric psychiatric NP?
“I became a nurse because it seemed like a practical and flexible career that allowed me to spend time with my family. Most of my career as a nurse was in pediatrics in a hospital setting. As a pediatric nurse, I wanted to do more. I felt like I had the potential to do more for pediatric health than I could in med/surg.
“I considered changing to a PMHNP program half-way through, but decided it was more practical to wait. When I began practicing as a PNP in primary care, I found that I was spending a large portion of my time on mental health concerns. Along the way two of my children were diagnosed with autism and I keenly sympathized with my patients and families and their struggles to access appropriate mental health services. The need was so great, it seemed best to obtain additional psych training sooner vs. later.”
You are taking multiple professional roles (e.g., the president-elect for the WA Chapter of the NAPNP, UW affiliate faculty, and serve on the AAPPN Education Committee). What gives you energy and what do you do for your own self-care practice?
“Those roles sound like a lot, but there is significant overlap. My role as UW affiliate faculty mostly involves precepting NP students while I am seeing patients. The professional committees are actually a lot of fun. I feel like they give me an opportunity to advocate and make a difference, as well as connect with great people.
“For energy – the answer is coffee and consistent sleep and exercise. For self-care, I schedule a mental health PTO day every month. I like to spend time outdoors, take time to learn new things or try new foods, listen to audiobooks, and spend time with my family and cats. Sometimes I watch short videos of people creating art.”
What are you most proud of in your career?
“I graduated from Johns Hopkins University while working in public health in a global pandemic.”
What is the best advice you ever received about the profession?
“ ‘Always protect your back, health, and your license. Never risk any of the above for a patient.’ The nurse who said this was mostly referring to using good form when lifting heavy patients, but when interrupted figuratively, it still applies.”
Do you have any words for PMHNP students?
“Make sure that you are connected to peers and mentors. Get involved in professional organizations. Make sure you are scheduling time for CME and to read best practices. Look for positions where you will be supported. Say ‘no’ to positions that sound terrible for your mental health. If a position sounds appealing, but a little too intense, ask to work 0.7-0.8 FTE.”
What role has AAPPN played in your career?
“AAPPN has given me the opportunity to connect with peers. At my first AAPPN conference in late 2020 someone mentioned psych consult groups. Dana Doering and I organized a group focused on children, adolescents, and young adults. It has been great to meet with these providers every month to discuss important topics and complex patients.
“I have enjoyed being involved in the Education Committee. They are great people to work with and it has been fun to support psych provider education.”