Faculty Spotlight: Caitlin Levesque

For Nursing@Simmons faculty member Caitlin Levesque, BS, RN, MSN, the decision to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) was a foregone conclusion. Since earning her RN/MSN from Simmons College in 2009, Levesque has fulfilled her dream of becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-BC). She’s also become an ardent advocate for the Nursing@Simmons online model of education delivery. Read more about her journey in the Q&A below.

What drew you to pediatric nursing?

I am one of the lucky ones that knew what I wanted to do from the time I was a small child. I truly feel blessed that I have been able to live out my dreams. My mother became a Nurse Practitioner in 1979, at a time when the role of the NP was still being defined. I was in awe of the care she was able to provide to her patients and knew that I wanted to be just like her. I was always drawn to children. Whether this is a reflection of being one of six children, I am not sure, but I have never regretted my decision to enter pediatrics. During my time in practice, and even more so after having become a mother myself, I have learned how special it is that I am invited into the lives of children and their families during such vulnerable times. I never forget that this is a wonderful privilege.

How has nursing and nursing education changed since you earned your MSN at Simmons?

The shift to online education. It is wonderful! I am so happy that I have been able to be a part of this movement in the Simmons community as a faculty member with Nursing@Simmons. Online education allows Simmons students to access a wonderful, diverse group of expert practitioners, both among faculty and their fellow classmates. Additionally, Nursing@Simmons enables students and faculty to share their different experiences in health care across our nation and to learn from one another.

Why did you decide to return to your alma mater to teach nursing in an online format?

I was thrilled to accept a job in a pediatric primary care practice as soon as I graduated from Simmons. I was excited but nervous, as any new practitioner would be. I soon settled into my position and realized right away how incredibly prepared I was for my role as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Simmons had provided me with a superb education. I am very proud to say that I am a Simmons graduate, and I was honored to return to Simmons in the role of faculty. The convenience of the online program allows me to continue in my clinical practice and share the most up-to-date information and clinical experience with my students.

What are your areas of interest within pediatrics?

My interests include increasing immunization rates and looking at reasons why parents choose not to immunize their children; supporting the breast-feeding family; encouraging learning through play in the young child; and helping to guide the transition from adolescence to young adulthood.

What are some of the greatest challenges you face in your role as a Nurse Practitioner?

One challenge is encouraging vaccine-hesitant parents to immunize their children. As practitioners, we are fortunate that we can access a wealth of information at our fingertips. Parents, rightly so, do a tremendous amount of research on all topics pertaining to their children; however, some of the circulating information on the internet is false, and this is particularly true as it relates to vaccines. Much of my time in practice is spent educating parents and families on the importance of vaccines and herd immunity. I truly feel that immunizations are one of the most important factors when it comes to protecting the health of our children and our global communities. I am passionate about increasing immunization rates.

Another challenge I have faced is the care of children and adolescents with mental illness. Over the years, I have cared for an increasing number of youth who struggle with a variety of mental health diagnoses. With limited mental health resources and mental health providers, myself and my primary care colleagues have had to become increasingly skilled in the management of mental health disorders.

What types of public health issues can Pediatric Nurse Practitioners help reverse or curb?

Nurse Practitioners can help with an infinite number of public health issues. Preventive care is at the center of these issues. If our patient-management is preventive care centered, we can decrease many undesirable behaviors and choices that our patients make that lead to poor health. During a well-visit with a patient, I spend the majority of my time in conversation — asking questions, providing information, and educating children and their parents in the best health practices. 

What role do NPs play in improving health for a community?

Nurse Practitioners can improve the health of their communities in many ways. These include encouraging immunizations, treating and reporting infectious disease, understanding and educating patients about local environmental health concerns, and collaborating with other community organizations to maximize all aspects of our patients’ health.

What advice would you offer someone who is considering earning an MSN?

Do it! You will not regret your decision. Being a Nurse Practitioner has provided me with so many wonderful opportunities. It is an incredibly fulfilling career. There are days that are challenging, tiring, sad and discouraging, but the good ones far, far outweigh the bad ones. Each and every day is different. I am never bored and I am constantly learning.

What is your favorite part about teaching in the Nursing@Simmons program?

The best part has been being able to meet students and colleagues from all around the world. I was a bit concerned that the online format would be slightly isolating, but I have found the exact opposite. Nursing@Simmons has many modalities for supporting interactions between students and faculty and I have been pleasantly surprised to see the relationships students form with each one another. Nursing@ Simmons is a strong and supportive community.