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Featured NP: Ellen Huffmaster

Posted By Administrator, Monday, August 22, 2016

When you combine rural Oklahoma and a specialty such as mental health, you find there aren’t a lot of options available. Ellen Huffmaster wants to change that. As a family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Ellen believes NPs can play a significant role in providing services to those living in rural areas that they might not otherwise have access, and she is especially passionate about the role NPs can play in the mental health community. We recently spoke with Ellen about why she became an NP and how she hopes to see the NP’s role grow in Oklahoma.

1. Why did you decide to pursue a career as an NP? 

I decided to become an NP after being a RN for more than 17 years. I saw a huge gap in psychiatric services being delivered to individuals in my community. Enid is not a small town, but it did not have adequate psychiatric services. There were plenty of counselors, but medication management was a huge gap. Local family doctors, NPs or physician assistants were left to manage psychiatric medications or individuals had to drive to Tulsa or Oklahoma City to see a psychiatrist or PMHNP. This left many adults and children with inadequate services for managing their psychiatric medications. This was my primary passion for deciding to return to school.  

2. How did you decide to specialize as a family mental health psychiatric NP? 

I knew that this was the one area of specialties that was lacking professionals. At the time I started school, I believe there were only about 12 NPs with psychiatric specialty training. 

3. How would you like to see your profession change over the next 10 years? 

I would love to see more NPs specializing in psychiatry. I believe that independent practice is essential for the role of NPs to be fully utilized in Oklahoma. Many states have already adapted to full practice authority. Oklahoma needs to work quickly on this. Independent practice would have allowed me to open a practice in Enid, Oklahoma.  Right now there is not a full time psychiatrist in Enid, which has kept me from expanding available services. The limited number of psychiatrists in our region limits expanding services under the current rules and regulations for NPs.

4. Tell us about the most rewarding experiences you’ve had in your practice. 

The most rewarding thing in practicing psychiatry is seeing an individual change emotionally and physically. I have had patients thank me for adjusting their medications to the point of being able to function better in society. Mental health treatment changes individuals. It can open the door for people who feared being around others to becoming a professional with a full time job. My patients make my job worth all of the stress on a regular basis. I love my job. 

5. You have a passion for the role NPs play in mental health and other specialties. Tell us about that.

The ability of NPs to specialize allows us to provide quality care in many areas of practice that are currently underserved. The specialty programs in NP training allow NPs to focus on certain areas of practice. This increases the number of specialists that are available in communities both urban and rural. Specialties are always needed especially in rural areas. I envision NPs providing more specialty services in the underserved areas in the future. This will increase access to care for patients, which is vital to keeping Oklahoma healthy. 

6. What would you like to say to someone considering a career as an NP?

Go for it. Be dedicated and determined to providing quality care to your patients. Know that it will take a lot of work, time and dedication to complete, but it is worth it. Being an NP has been a great privilege for me. My family has had to make a lot of sacrifices, but overall the job satisfaction is worth all of the struggles.  

Ellen has made it clear that rural health care is in crisis. There are not enough options for specialized health care, especially when it comes to mental health, in small towns and farming communities across our state. Patients have to drive too far to get their hands on the treatments and medications they need to live full and meaningful lives. Oklahoma’s shortage of rural specialty health care providers will only continue to limit access as populations grow. It’s essential NPs be granted the opportunity to build independent practices in their communities.

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Spreading the Message - We Need Your Stories!

Posted By AONP, Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Spreading the Message - We Need Your Stories


The Association of Oklahoma Nurse Practitioners has an important mission. We need to spread the news of the importance of nurse practitioners in the health care system. This is why we need you – we need your stories!


We all want a better health care system, and the power to change the system lies with the public and with our local legislators. When we have a wealth of stories illustrating how NPs are vital to the health care system, we can place the stories in front of legislators and the public.


If you have a story about helping a patient receive care who wasn’t able to see a doctor, we want to know your story. If you are giving care to patients in rural areas who are not able to see a physician, let us know. If you know a fellow NP who has gone above and beyond to help a patient, tell us about them.

If you are passionate about nurse practitioners having full practice authority, we want to hear you.


We intend to spread the message far and wide. We’ll use our blogs, newsletters and social media pages to publish your stories. We want everyone in Oklahoma to know how vital NPs are to health care in Oklahoma. Help us spread the message – send us your story today!






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The Primary Care Gap - And A Solution

Posted By AONP, Friday, June 3, 2016

The Primary Care Gap – And A Solution


Nurse practitioners have always helped patients receive care more easily. Today, there is a growing gap between the number of patients who need primary care and the number and availability of primary care providers. Many patients are waiting longer than they should to receive care due to inaccessibility to primary care physicians.


Often, physicians decide in medical school to specialize. This has left a gap in the primary care setting and has presented an opportunity for advanced practice nurses. Although the advanced practice degrees include specialty pathways the most common are family and pediatrics.


The simplest and most obvious way nurse practitioners have been a part of the solution has been availability. Michelle Ellenburg M.S.N., R.N. with St. Anthony Hospital. “We definitely have quicker access. Everyone can get in to see a nurse practitioner eventually. I’ve had a handful of patients who have been referred to me from the E.R., who have had no primary care provider. One lady was diagnosed with diabetes while in the hospital. She had no access to any care, and she came in and saw me. We got her tools to monitor her diabetes, and in the last 6 months we’ve gotten her diabetes really under control!”


Many times the sheer speed of receiving care can make a significant impact. “When patients like her are able to get in to see me in the first couple of days after her hospital visit, I think that makes the difference. When people get big diagnoses like that, and on top of it you tell them, ‘these are the lifestyle changes you have to make’, it’s a bigger impact when you are able to tell them immediately after their diagnosis.”


We have already seen the impact of nurse practitioners on the health care systems of rural areas. Michelle Ellenburg had quite a few friends that she graduated with at the University of Oklahoma who were from rural areas and all went back to their own communities. “Just talking with them briefly since then, you can tell that they’re really busy. I’m getting busy, but I’m in the city, and there are a lot of care providers to see. They’ve all been crazy busy because there are so many people that need health care who haven’t been able to receive it before. Or their patients were driving long distances to receive care, and now they are able to get care in their own communities. Nurse practitioners are definitely filling that gap.”


Not only are nurse practitioners more available, but also their bedside manner is impressive. “Nurse practitioners are great, specifically more holistic… we spend more time getting to know you and understand why you make the decisions you’re making. Like maybe you can’t afford your blood pressure medication, so we do a good job of help people getting resources like that, so I think we’re awesome. Almost all of my patients say, ‘You know, it’s so nice to feel like I’m heard’. I feel like I’ve heard that a lot lately. That is because, you know, I worked along the bedside, and I was trained as a nurse, and that’s just usually our mannerisms.”


Nurse practitioners are more available, uniquely qualified and carefully trained in bedside patient care. As health care advances across the country, nurse practitioners will continue to play a vital role in primary care.




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Medicaid Action Alert!

Posted By AONP, Tuesday, April 26, 2016


As you know, Medicaid rates are on the verge of being cut an additional 25 percent due to the state’s budget shortfall.


That would bring rates down to 61 percent of the Medicare rate. Even if you are not personally reimbursed by Medicaid, this rate cut will negatively affect every individual and every community across Oklahoma as hospital and clinics are forced to lay off staff or shut their doors.


As we’ve been urging, we need you to write your legislators! Ask them to support the Medicaid Rebalancing Act and to vote in favor of the tobacco tax increase. If you don’t know who represents you in the legislature, you can find that information here.


AONP is working with the Oklahoma Nurses Association to encourage legislators to support the proposed Medicaid Rebalancing Act. Nico Gomez met with us several weeks ago to discuss this proposal, and that presentation can be found here.


Make your letters as specific and personal as possible. Here are some questions to consider:


·      How long can you endure these cuts and still provide services?

·      What percentage of your patients are on Medicaid?

·      How many of those are children, young mothers, the elderly or disabled?

·      How many jobs might be lost as your workplace absorbs the cuts?

·      How will this affect access to care in your community?

·      Where will your neighbors seek medical care and how far will they have to drive for primary, emergency or specialty health care?

·      If the local hospital or clinic is forced to close, how will this affect other businesses and the community as a whole?


One in every 3 Oklahomans is enrolled in Medicaid. These cuts will be catastrophic to the health care infrastructure in Oklahoma. We must act, and we must act quickly, to educate lawmakers about the consequences of these cuts and motivate them to work together to find a solution!



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AONP Town Hall Meetings Are Coming to You

Posted By AONP, Friday, April 15, 2016

AONP Town Hall Meetings


We saw so many APRNs help represent us at the Oklahoma State Capitol, but we also understand that much of the work APRNs do in Oklahoma happens in all corners of the state. To help build solidarity amongst APRNs across the state, AONP has scheduled town hall meetings in nine cities across Oklahoma.


These meeting will give APRNs the opportunity to visit with colleagues from throughout their region and get the latest information on legislative issues and updates on the plan for next legislative session. We will also discuss Medicaid proposals from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, AONP membership, grassroots lobbying and answer your professional and political questions.


Invite all of your APRN friends. These meetings will be open to all APRNs regardless of whether or not they are AONP members.


Board members will attend the meetings at all nine locations, as well as Benny Vanatta, AONP Executive Director and lobbyist. Find a meeting location near you below:



Dates and times of the meetings are:



6 to 8 p.m.

April 21

Holiday Inn Express, 4702 W Owen K. Garriott

Click here to register



6 to 8 p.m.

May 5

Holiday Inn Express, 3840 W Second St., Edmond

Click here to register



6 to 8 p.m.

May 18

Holiday Inn Express, 4106 SE Price Road
Click here to register



6 to 8 p.m.

June 9

Holiday Inn Hotel, 10020 E 81stSt.

Click here to register



6 to 8 p.m.

July 14

Holiday Inn Express, 209 SE Interstate Drive

Click here to register



6 to 8 p.m.

July 21

Holiday Inn Express, 1811 S Peaceable Road

Click here to register



9:30 a.m.

Aug. 13

Holiday Inn Express, 3825 E Mail St.

Click here to register



6 to 8 p.m.

Aug. 25

Comfort Suites, 400 SE Lincoln

Click here to register



6 to 8 p.m.

Sept. 1

Holiday Inn Express, 3333 Williams Ave.

Click here to register


Any APRN in Oklahoma may attend any or all of the meetings they desire. We will see you there!


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Moms are Choosing Nurse Practitioners for Primary Care

Posted By AONP, Thursday, March 24, 2016


Ryan is an active 7-year-old boy. If he’s not studying moves in his Jiu Jitsu class, you might find him playing with his dogs or near a Minecraft controller.


Ryan’s mom Amber Knapp is what you might call a health nut. As a beachbody instructor and personal trainer, she is the kind of person who watches the health and wellness of her family very carefully. You shouldn’t be surprised that, for her son’s primary care provider, Amber turns to a nurse practitioner.


Mrs. Knapp has a friend who is a nurse practitioner and says, “Having seen the amount of studying and work she completed to become an ARNP was one reason I feel completely confident with her as our provider.”


This 2008 study on the quality of care provided by nurse practitioners compared to doctor-provided care confirms her personal findings. The results point to the conclusion that patients are generally more satisfied with their care from a nurse practitioner than that of a doctor.


Quality of care is important to most people, and nurse practitioners are known to be generally more available than doctors. As Amber Knapp says, “I feel that NPs are more accessible than MDs. They seem to be more patient-focused and spend extra time to ensure the patient is at ease.”


Many moms across the state go to a nurse practitioner as their primary care provider, and many are in favor of full practice authority. Mrs. Knapp stated,



“I would agree with full practice authority. When my son’s general practitioner retired, I started taking him to see a pediatric nurse practitioner. I was very impressed with how much more thorough the exam process was and how much thought and care she put into the assessment and his well child check. It was our first visit with an NP and I feel she went above and beyond the basic exam. She calmed my nerves as a parent and answered all my questions without seeming like I was intruding on her time.”


“She is more than willing to take phone calls and answer questions anytime. If she is unavailable, she makes sure we can be seen ASAP with another practitioner in her clinic. I would very much recommend a nurse practitioner as a primary care provider. I have had nothing but great experiences with our NP.”


There are many caring mothers in Oklahoma who also choose a nurse practitioner for primary care. If you are one of those moms, tell us your story! Contact us and follow our Facebook page to join a community of NPs and supporters.








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Answering Your Questions About HB 2841 #RightToPractice

Posted By AONP, Tuesday, February 9, 2016


As many of you have heard, HB 2841 has been assigned to the Appropriations and Budget (A&B) Health Subcommittee. So far, Dr. Doug Cox has not agreed to hear the bill, but we still have time to speak with legislators before the deadline. We currently have almost 20 co-authors and we ask that you continue to reach out to your state representatives. The more co-authors we have, the better chance we have of our bill being heard. We are not going to give up on full practice authority!

Many of our AONP members have been asking questions about the bill and the best ways to help the bill. We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions about HB 2841, and an update of its progress.

Who are the co-authors of HB 2841?

We have had many requests for a current list of co-authors for HB2841. The path of a bill and the paperwork and verification of the process surrounding it takes time. The list of co-authors will continue to change as more representatives agree to sign-on. Bear with us as we try to keep this list current. You can view the most updated list of co-authors here, or check in on our AONP Facebook page.

What hospitals and other organizations support HB 2841?

So far, the current list of hospitals and organizations that support HB 2841 includes St. Francis Tulsa, St. Anthony OKC, Tulsa University School of Nursing, Southwestern Medical Center, St. John Trauma Center and Duncan Regional Hospital. Visit our updated list of supporters for the latest update to this list.

When is the deadline?

The deadline for reporting House bills and joint resolutions from House committees is Friday, Feb. 26.

How can I help?

Right now, contacting your state representatives and explaining the importance of HB 2841 is the best thing you can do. After talking with a legislator, let Benny Vanatta know, so he can follow up with that legislator.

Is there anything I should avoid doing?

Avoid negative or sarcastic speech that can be seen as offensive. Also avoid creating additional messaging platforms that can confuse the public. We want to present a united front against the opposition of this bill, and to do that we need to stick to official messaging and lobbying efforts.

What is our AONP leadership doing to help?

Our leadership has met with many members of committee assigned to the bill, including Dr. Cox himself. We have met with many organizations including the Oklahoma Rural Hospital Association, Oklahoma Health Care Authority and many of Oklahoma’s legislators. We will continue to promote HB 2841 at the Oklahoma Capitol and across the state.

We appreciate your continued help in fighting for the #RightToPractice.




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HB 2841 - Time For Action

Posted By AONP, Friday, February 5, 2016


We’ve hit our first challenge and need your help! Our bill allowing for full practice authority, HB 2841, is assigned to the Appropriations and Budget (A&B) Health Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Doug Cox. So far, Rep. Cox has not agreed to hear the bill. This is discouraging, but we still have three weeks to do everything we can to get that bill out of committee.


We currently have almost 20 co-authors and we ask that you continue to reach out to your state representatives. The more co-authors we have, the better chance we have of our bill being heard. Don’t forget to also contact your local hospital administrator to ask for their support. We are not going to give up on full practice authority!


Remember that even if you disagree with a legislator, respect and courtesy are vital. We want legislators to be our friends and help us. A legislator will always defend one of their colleagues, so attacking one may turn others against our cause.


Letters to legislators work best when they have a personal touch, but to get you started here's a letter template. To find your local House member, follow this link:


Working together, we can bring this issue to the attention of all our legislators and improve every Oklahoman’s access to quality, affordable care.






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Featured NP: Damarcus Nelson

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Featured NP - Damarcus Nelson 

Damarcus Nelson has been selected  to receive the AANP Advocate State Award for Excellence. This prestigious award is given annually to a dedicated NP advocate in each state who has promoted the NP role and patient access to care. 

"This recognition from American Association of Nurse Practitioners is not only an honor but, a privilege to be mentioned in the same breath with providers that have pushed our profession forward. The award will be given at the upcoming AANP national conference in San Antonio, TX June 24, 2015. I'm very excited to represent Oklahoma health care and my fellow NPs in our fight for full practice authority in the state. This award has made my fire for pushing our profession even stronger and will continue to make me a better provider in years to come. Thank you to those who have supported me along the way and continue to help Oklahoma NPs be elite healthcare providers." - Damarcus Nelson

Damarcus Nelson has been practicing in Oklahoma since 2012 with Family Healthcare and Minor Emergency. "We service a large area of patients from Piedmont to Oklahoma City.  Currently we have three clinics to service the surrounding patient population.  Our practice is NP owned and operated. We see a large amount of Soonercare, commercial, and DDSD patients. Currently I act as a lead provider and many patients call me their PCP (primary care provider). I wake up everyday loving what I do and treating every patient like they are family. I welcome what the future has in store for NPs throughout the state of Oklahoma." 

We congratulate Damarcus Nelson and share in the excitement for what the future has in store for NPs throughout the state of Oklahoma!

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How Can I Help AONP?

Posted By AONP, Monday, January 11, 2016

How Can I Help AONP?

We have had many people ask us lately, “How can I help advance AONP?” The number one way you can help Nurse Practitioners across Oklahoma is simply to tell your story of how NPs help improve health care in Oklahoma. A first-person story is always the best way to connect with someone on an issue. 


Keep it Local

If you’d like to share the advantages of NP care to your state, reaching out to your local community is relatively easy to do. Perhaps you could invite a local or state government official to tour your practice.

Reach out to existing civic groups in your community to add the topic of NP care to discussions at chambers of commerce, business groups, schools, PTAs and other community forums. You could organize a health fair with your local NP group, and reach out to local public venues that might be interested in hosting such an event.

With your practice or your local NP group, support a local non-profit organization. Encourage healthy physical activity by sponsoring a fun-run, where proceeds benefit a local non-profit organization. Build positive ties in your community, and your voice and message will be respected.




Deliver the Letter

If you have a knack for writing, you might want to think about writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Letters provide a public forum to open up a discussion with the public. Remember to include all pertinent contact information, as the newspaper will want to contact you to verify the article.

Be timely in your response to news events. Be clear in your language, and focus on one main point. Get your readers’ attention at the beginning of the article with an interesting fact, and then keep their attention through about three paragraphs.

Show respect to your readers and avoid personal attacks or rudeness. A letter to the editor is meant to be of an opinionated nature, but should be strongly backed up with facts. Check and recheck for grammar and spelling mistakes. Hand it off to a friend or family member for additional proofreading. Read several letters to the editor before you begin writing yours to assess the publication and their editors’ tastes.

If your letter is not published, don’t worry or be discouraged.


Online Outreach

The internet is the largest discussion forum that exists. Share good news about NP care in the online groups that you are already a part of. To maximize the community of peers that you share ideas with, check out some of these existing online resources for NPs:

Like and follow AONP’s Facebook Page

Follow AONP on Twitter

Visit the AONP website

Follow AONP on Instagram

Visit the AANP website

Join AANP’s LinkedIn Group 

Visit AANP on YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.


No matter the venue you choose to share the impact of NP health care, speaking up is the important part. Join us as we aim to show the entire state of Oklahoma the importance of NP health care.


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