Meet Badass Nastassja W. // MSN ’14
Daughter of a Nurse. Critical Care Nurse. Family Nurse Practitioner
Nastassja Williams ‘14 became the first Nurse Practitioner at Northwestern’s Gastroenterology Group.
“My mother is a registered nurse, which initially sparked my interest in healthcare. When I was 17, I became a mom myself, and I knew I wanted to build a great future for my daughter, so I chose nursing. I went to Truman College for my associate’s degree. It was a challenge—working, going to school, raising a daughter.
After I graduated from Truman, I went to work at Presence Health (now AMITA Health). I worked Med/ Surg, Telemetry, Float Pool, Home Health, and Med/Surg ICU. Through that process, I fell in love with nursing. What started out as a job turned into my passion. I wanted to keep growing in my career, so I earned my BSN from Benedictine University. Deep down, I knew that I wanted to challenge myself and take nursing to the next level by becoming a provider.
I became interested in GI while working for a gastroenterologist. He constantly encouraged me to get my Master’s and saw the potential in me even when I did not. For that, I am forever grateful. So, I decided to attend ResU because it was the partner school with the institution I worked for. People told me becoming a Nurse Practitioner would be challenging and come with a whole new set of responsibilities but that it would be worth it and very rewarding. As it turned out, they were right. I focused on Family Practice (FNP) because I like the diversity of patients.
Then Northwestern called me for an interview. I have to admit: I was scared. I was worried that specializing would limit my options in the future or that I would lose the skills I had learned as an FNP. However, I knew deep down that gastroenterology was my passion. My husband and nursing mentor encouraged me to talk to them. I accepted the job and it turned out to be the most pivotal point in my career.
At Northwestern I became the first Nurse Practitioner in their General Gastroenterology Group. The biggest change was becoming a provider and working outpatient—I had always worked at the bedside as a nurse. Assessment, diagnosis, and coming up with a treatment plan was a totally new world for me. As a provider, you’re responsible for all aspects of patient care. A nurse’s scope of practice is completely different from a nurse practitioner’s. It can be a little scary when you are responsible for making all the decisions.
When I started at Northwestern, I was in uncharted territory. I had to make my own orientation; I had to introduce myself to doctors; and, most important of all, I had to determine how I could add value. One of the obstacles was being seen as a provider and not as a nurse. The majority of patients are familiar with the term nurse practitioner but are unsure what their role truly is. The big question is: ‘What is the difference between you and a doctor?’ The answer? The biggest difference is education and length of residency. However, we both have to become board certified by our accrediting agencies. The physicians I work with are phenomenal. They are so supportive of my role and see me as their equal counterpart. I feel blessed because the moment I came in, they were welcoming, excited to have me, and receptive.
My nursing degree helped me create the career I always wanted.”