Elizabeth Smith, PA-C, has been an advanced practice provider (APP) in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine Department of Urology for eight years. Her specialty is urologic oncology, splitting her clinical role between the Kentucky Clinic and Markey Cancer Center.
A typical day is busy. “It’s a whole day of patient care,” including appointments, image reviews, record reviews, and care coordination, Smith said.
But for Smith, it is about seeing patients as human beings, first and foremost.
“We’re seeing people at their most vulnerable,” she said. “They're scared. They have a lot of questions. And it's just a real opportunity to treat them as a whole person. It’s all about relationships for me.”
APPs like Smith fill an important need for compassionate urologic care in the Commonwealth. According to the American Urological Association, Kentucky maintains an approximate 3.88 urologist-to-population ratio (per 100,000 population), with many counties across the state underserved.
Similar to a physician, an APP’s role encompasses patient care and medical activities. They are nationally certified and state licensed to diagnose, treat, and follow-up with patients. However, their expertise comes from training as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified midwives, or nurse anesthetists.
Most of the UK College of Medicine’s clinical departments have APPs on their teams. APPs collaborate with physicians in acute care and clinical settings. In addition to providing exceptional care, the APP team is a valuable clinical resource for office staff and trainees across several health care career paths.
Early into his leadership of the UK College of Medicine Department of Urology, Stephen Strup, MD, was adamant about bringing more APPs to his team to provide excellent care and prepare the next generation of urologic specialists.
“They do amazing work,” said Dr. Strup, who is the James F. Glenn Professor and Chair of Urology. “They take great care of our patients, and we’re blessed to have a really good group of people. It’s a great piece of our practice.”
Today, among its 24 clinical providers, his UK HealthCare urology team has 10 APPs with additional team members at the affiliated VA Hospital.
Amber Davis, DNP, APRN, Mary Kate Stafford, DNP, APRN, and Megan Robinson, NP-C, serve as female urology nurse practitioners. Conditions they treat include urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, recurrent urinary tract infections, painful bladder syndrome, and pelvic floor dysfunction, which Dr. Davis said is common in women but “under-diagnosed and undertreated.”
Their all-female APP team provides life-changing care for women across the Commonwealth.
“So many women avoid talking about health inconveniences as they age, so just improving their quality of life and seeing how it changes their lives is such a gratifying experience,” Dr. Davis said.
APPs are dedicated to serving patients and learners. In addition, as UK College of Health Sciences and UK College of Nursing alumnae, Dr. Davis, Smith, and Stafford say they are proud to help fulfill the mission of the University.
“We just feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to work within the health care system and provide the top-notch quality care for our patients and for the Commonwealth,” Stafford said. “That's the mission. We're thankful to be able to do it.”