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From Paramedic, to ICU Nurse, to Nurse Practitioner: FNP at Gannon

Published: 05/10/2022

Nurses Week 2022

Nurses Week 2022

Marisa Fisher decided she wanted to be a nurse after her brother introduced her to the brightly lit hallways and white nurses’ caps of the ’80s when she was just 14 years old. 

“My brother had a seizure and had to go to the pediatric ward at the local hospital. We went to visit him, and from the time I walked into that hospital, it was like ‘this is it,’” Fisher said. “The sounds, the nurses, the smells ... it was amazing.” 

Fisher is now graduating from Gannon University with her master’s degree in family nurse practitioner, making the jump from paramedic to ICU nurse to nurse practitioner.  

The biggest difference between a nurse and a nurse practitioner is the level of authority. Nurse practitioners are allowed to make decisions regarding their patients’ health that are otherwise made by physicians. This could include obtaining tests, prescribing treatments, diagnosing patients and more.  

It was her lack of jurisdiction as a nurse that led Fisher to pursue her nurse practitioner’s degree.

Fisher was working as a nurse in the ICU with a patient who she knew needed to be transferred to another hospital, but the physician didn’t agree with her.  

In the following hours, the patient deteriorated and had to be flown to another hospital.  

“Six hours earlier, there could’ve been a smoother transition,” Fisher said.  

“I went home, and I cried. I was upset. I was frustrated. I told my husband, ‘I’m signing up for the family nurse practitioner program at Gannon, and I don’t know what I have to do, but I’m gonna do it,’” she said.

Being a nurse practitioner would allow Fisher to have more power over the care of her patients. 

“I felt powerless in that situation,” Fisher said. “I knew what needed to happen, but I couldn’t get any farther. And now, as a family nurse practitioner, I’m going to be the provider, and my patients’ lives will be in my hands to a larger degree.” 

Fisher said her mother set an example for her young family when she returned to school in her ’40s and earned her physician's assistant degree at Gannon University.

“When I chose to go to family nurse practitioner, I chose Gannon. I mean actually there was no hesitation. I knew that Gannon was where I wanted to go,” Fisher said. “I’m definitely (my mother’s) legacy.”  

Fisher’s program started on the ground before moving online during the pandemic. Between grueling shifts, she was grateful to spend time with her family even if it involved working on her laptop in the kitchen while making dinner for her kids – a memory she recalled with a smile. 

Despite the pandemic, her biggest challenge came in July when her mother passed away.

Fisher was determined to finish her schooling, leaning on the support of her peers and professors. The words of her mother also encouraged her: Just keep showing up. Don’t be overwhelmed. Just keep showing up.

This became her mantra for the two remaining terms, carrying her to graduation and into her career at UPMC Chautauqua’s pulmonology department in Jamestown, NY.

Her focus is now on her relationship with her patients. Finishing her thesis, Fisher found a positive correlation between the nurse-patient trust relationship and their perception of care – something that did not surprise her.

“We don’t do this for any other reason besides the people,” she said.

This piece is featured in a special edition of the Erie Times-News: Nurses Week

Learn more about Gannon's Family Nurse Practitioner Program and apply today.

All media inquiries can be made by contacting Haley Figurski, Media Relations and Marketing Manager, at 814-823-1886.