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“I love having the opportunity to rebuild this clinic and watch it grow,” says Rebecca (Reel) Carter, MSN, APN, FNP-BC. “We’re finding ways to serve an underserved population in the Kankakee community.”

Rebecca is the first graduate to complete all of the requirements of Olivet’s new Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner degree program, and she received that degree in 2013. She also received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from Olivet in 2010.

Today, she is a family nurse practitioner (FNP) at Riverside HealthCare’s East Court Community Health Center in Kankakee. This clinic — designated as a National Health Service Corps facility — provides care for many patients who have no health insurance or are underinsured. Rebecca divides her time between seeing patients and finding resources to help them get the full scope of care they need.

“God placed me here,” she says. “I know this is part of my intended journey.”

Patient needs in the real world

Although she works under a collaborative agreement with family physician Rashida Downing, M.D., which is required under Illinois law, Rebecca provides her patients with the full scope of care. She is licensed to diagnose illnesses and conditions, as well as to prescribe medications and courses of treatment.

“My practice focuses on family medicine, pediatrics through geriatrics,” she says. “I enjoy spending time with my patients, educating them about their disease processes, medications and treatment plans. My goal is to empower them to make choices and get more involved in the decision-making process.”

One of the greatest challenges for Rebecca is seeing the difficulties her patients are facing in finding resources for getting affordable medications, proper diagnostic testing and the recommended treatment. Many do not have a car for transportation or money to purchase medications.

“This makes my job much more difficult,” she says. “I have to make adjustments to their treatment while staying clinically sound in my decision making and working within their limitations.”

Keeping goals realistic

Building on her 20 years of nursing experience, Rebecca was initially drawn to Olivet’s FNP program because it was close to home. It also allowed her to continue to network and work with the community of medical professionals she already knew and trusted.

She had spent most of her career working in Riverside Medical Center’s intensive care unit. Her goal for advancing her nursing career was to work more on the preventative, rather than just the reactive, side of medicine. She wanted to have more autonomy in managing patient care and working directly with her patients.

“I worked for a while in home health care,” she says. “I understand what happens when people come home from the hospital or go home after a doctor’s appointment. Often, they don’t understand what they’re supposed to do. That experience has helped me see my patients from a different perspective.”

Prescription for success

Rebecca credits the variety of her clinical experiences in Olivet’s program as excellent preparation for what to expect in day-to-day clinic operations. She also appreciates the focus on best practice in the classroom instruction. “As a health care provider, I always want to be working under those guidelines,” she says.

She credits her cohort for providing her with accountability, as well as shoulders to cry on and brains to pick, throughout her time in the program.

“This is a tough program,” she says. “I learned from collaborating with them, studying with them every week. They helped me when I got discouraged. We were in it together.”

The strength of Rebecca’s education and preparation are already evident in her work with Riverside HealthCare.

"Rebecca is doing an outstanding job in her new role as a family nurse practitioner,” Dr. Downing says. “She is competent, confident and compassionate. She has been integral in growing our underserved East Court clinic.

“I have been very impressed by the quality of the training of our Olivet graduates. I precept many of them in my office and have found them to be very well-prepared for practice. Rebecca is no exception to that. She is a wonderful professional and will certainly be a superstar in the future."