SCAC ARNPsARNPs at Seattle Children’s Autism Center

When my children were young, they were patients of a large pediatric practice. It was sometimes difficult to get a same-day appointment with a doctor, so when I was offered one with a nurse practitioner (NP), I took it. This was my first experience with an ARNP and it opened my eyes to all that this medical professional has to offer.

NPs are an integral part of our team at Seattle Children’s Autism Center (SCAC). For more information about them, I turned to Lindsey Miller, ARNP for background on the education and training that is required.

What education and training do NPs have?

Miller: Education to become an ARNP includes completing a certified Registered Nurse (RN) program and passing the RN licensure exam. The current group of NPs at SCAC all completed a master’s level degree in nursing, which is a two-year graduate program that involves coursework and a supervised clinical practicum.

At our autism center, we have both medical NPs and psychiatric NPs.

Our medical NPs are made up of two Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (education focused on delivering primary care from birth-21) and four Family Nurse Practitioners (education focused on delivering primary care across the lifespan).

Our two psychiatric NPs completed a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program. All of us took an exam to become board certified NPs. There is a shift now for ARNPs to complete a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). This is a 3-year program, with an emphasis in the last year on leadership and research.

What role do the NPs have at SCAC?

Miller: The medical NPs at SCAC complete the initial intake evaluation when a question for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been raised. Their intake involves a thorough review of developmental history and medical history to inform the indication for further evaluation for diagnostic clarification.

They also provide follow-up to help monitor and manage medical issues such as sleep disruption and constipation. ARNPs are licensed to prescribe medication and ours are competent with the management of common psychotropic medications that are often prescribed to help in the treatment of concurrent problems such as inattention, impulsivity, anxiety or disruptive behaviors. The medicals NPs can also provide routine follow-up to help parents in prioritizing recommendations and identifying resources.

The psychiatric NPs provide evaluation and management of psychotropic medications. We often see individuals on more complex regimens of medication or those who have not been successful or have experienced adverse effects to certain medications.

The NPs work side by side with the Medical Doctors (MDs). Consultation is sought out as needed and there is a monthly meeting in which our NPs and MDs come together to discuss difficult cases.

We asked their colleagues what they think of the NPs at SCAC and this is what they had to say:

“The NPs play a unique and vital role at SCAC. This group of providers works as a team on the front line of care, offering a tremendous pool of knowledge and expertise serving parents who are seeking an autism evaluation, diagnosis and/or treatment for their child.”

“One of the best parts of my job is working with our NPs and they are one of the best things about the Autism Center. I count on their collaborative spirit and endless desire to learn about autism, to meet patients and families where they are, and their sincere concern for those living with autism.”

“They are a group of professionals who have dedicated their lives to better understanding a very complex disorder. They work as a team, learning from one another, sharing information and providing state-of-the-art approaches for our families.”

“They continually seek to understand autism, how it is treated and how it impacts those living with autism. They are some of the most curious and caring people I know! They chose this work. They want to be here. And it shows.”

“Our NPs also cover the clinic to prescribe meds when other providers are out. This is vital for us, because we have many providers who work in other clinics.”

“NPs advise nursing staff with respect to medical advice and psychiatric crisis.”

“NPs take calls from community providers seeking guidance about autism.”

“Our NPs are dedicated to our patient community, which is complicated and has high needs. Our nurses understand the challenging marathon that families face.”

Sometimes when a parent hasn’t yet worked with a NP, there can be confusion about what their role is in the evaluation and treatment of autism. We hope this has helped answer any questions you may have had about it. If not, drop us a line and we’ll get an answer for you.

Thanks to our wonderful team of NPs at SCAC and to those who took a moment to share their words with our readers!