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Finding Her Passion: Recent Graduate Pulls Own Ilness to Work

Jessica Simpson, a 2009 graduate of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) program, has a special connection with the ill children in her care. Diagnosed with severe chronic asthma when she was 8, Jessica has spent much of her life in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals. So when she cares for her young patients, she understands deeply their experiences, including the uncertainty, fear, and desire to get back to a “normal” life. “I have found that I can really relate to the sick children that I’ve encountered,” she said. “I’ve found these kids are much deeper than their peers because they have been through so much.”

After growing up in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Jessica attended Washington State University in Pullman and received a BA in social sciences with an emphasis in psychology and chemistry in 1999. Shortly after, Jessica got a job as a nursing assistant and soon realized that nursing was her passion. “I had always been interested in the sciences and health care, but wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do next,” she said. “Becoming a nurse practitioner was on my list of options–I had been so positively impacted by the nurses that had cared for me.”

In 2004, Jessica graduated from the UW School of Nursing with her bachelor’s and entered the nurse practitioner program right away. Since she had only minimal clinical experience, she elected to pause the program and spend a year working full-time as a Registered Nurse before entering the clinical portion of the NP program. She recalls a moment early in the program like this: “I was taking an assessment course in the summer of my first year, and when learning about the heart I can remember thinking, ‘I haven’t listened to 100 normal hearts, so how would I know what an irregular one sounds like?’"

Jessica noted that after walking into her first job as an RN with a three-month residency period, after the first six weeks they knew she was prepared for a staff position. She attributes her success as a nurse to the education she received at the UW. “So much of what I say to my patients and their families comes directly from the faculty I have engaged with,” she said. “I’m able to speak the same language as the families I work with because of my education.”

Throughout her time at UW, Jessica has received several School of Nursing scholarships, including the Dorothy M. Crowley Memorial Endowment Fund, the Peter & Rose Christie Endowed Fund, Jane Greenwood Endowed Scholarship, Joyce Carr Endowed Scholarship, Myra Pascoe Scholarship and funds from the Nursing Scholarship Fund. Due to the large medical expenses associated with a chronic illness, her nursing education would have been impossible for Jessica without assistance. “My scholarships have paid for my entire BSN and MN tuition. I would have never made it into this profession if it wasn’t for these scholarships.”

Jessica finished the PNP program this spring and is currently working at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland in the pediatric care unit as an RN. She hopes to put her new degree to work soon, and is currently interviewing for nurse practitioner positions in the greater community. “I feel extremely lucky for the education UW has given me,” she said. “How many people can say they walk into work every day and truly love their job like I do?”