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Jessica Castle MSN FNP ‘16 grad chosen for nursing fellowship

Jessica Castle MSN FNP ‘16 grad chosen for nursing fellowship

Jessica Castle ’16, a graduate of the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program, knew her Otterbein education helped her to stand out. She was chosen as one of two nurses out of a field of 185 applicants for The Ohio State University (OSU) Primary Care Fellowship.

Postgraduate fellowships for advanced practice nurses provide a year-long opportunity for nurse practitioners to increase their experience and knowledge by participating in a fellowship at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center and The James Cancer Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. OSU also offers fellowships in cardiology, oncology, psych, critical care and primary care.

Castle didn’t initially realize just how ready she was for her future. After attending an information session, she became discouraged when she realized there were only two primary care spots.

“There were so many people at that session, with many questions from attendees being directed toward the primary care fellowship. I thought to myself, ‘There is no way I will stand out in this crowd of professionals who have so much more going for them than I do.”’  

She may have been surprised to be chosen for the fellowship, but she was confident she was prepared.

“I will lovingly say this till the day I die: Dr. Chovan was the professor that I loved to hate. He was so incredibly difficult as a grader and a test-giver. I would hand in a paper that I thought I nailed, and would be devastated to discover it returned with red marks, comments, suggestions and a grade several marks lower than what I expected to receive. His tests seemed impossible to ace. I had him for several of my most difficult classes, and he pushed me to really know my material. Eventually, I came to understand the level of critical thinking he expected out of us, the level to which he elevated us to write and communicate, and he made me better.”  

Castle said the selection process for the fellowship was daunting.

“The initial application was due in February 2016, then we had a video interview in March and then a second and final interview in April. I feel so blessed and honored to have been selected out of so many equally qualified candidates! Otterbein prepared me well.”  

She continued to use her Otterbein connections to get her through the interviews. Since she had not experienced an online interview before, she met with Ryan Brechbill, director of Otterbein’s Center for Career and Professional Development. He helped her prepare for the online interview format and gave suggestions as to the content of questions that are typically asked.

Castle is thrilled with the opportunity she’s been given.

“The fellowship is a perfect opportunity for a new graduate of a family nurse practitioners program because it allows you to ease into the role. There are many differences in the roles of a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner, and it is so nice to not have the pressure of performing by productivity numbers right now and just letting me simply learn my role and learn how to manage various disease processes. I have been able to spend full days of work shadowing each of OSU’s family nurse practitioners to learn various ways of tailoring my practice to how I want it to operate. Each nurse practitioner has a different suggestion of how to best time manage, be productive, maintain a positive work-life balance, approach various illnesses and enjoy the job. It is a low-stress environment, and my boss very much encourages us through the transition process,” she said. “The best part is – it is a paid fellowship.”   

It was while pursuing her bachelor’s degree from Malone University that her future came into focus.

“I went to Peru my junior and senior years with a small group of nursing students in my class. We set up free medical clinics and held afternoon Vacation Bible School for children in the villages to which we traveled. It was during one of our free medical clinics that we were held up for quite some time, sitting on our hands, and unable to see patients because the physician who was supposed to arrive had not shown. We had a line of desperate and hopeful mothers and children beginning to form, and no way to legally give out our donated medications and supplies. Per the law in Peru, even though we were on a medical mission trip, we still had to have a licensed prescriber write and initiate treatments. It was then that I decided I would go back to school and study to become a nurse practitioner. I wanted to lead a medical mission team and help my own community in a provider role so this would not happen again,” she said.

Castle credits her first jobs at OSU on a medical-surgical/telemetry floor and later to a ortho/neuro/trauma unit as giving her the confidence for her next adventure, that of travel nursing. Her assignments took her across the U.S. Eventually her travels took her to St. Ann’s Hospital and Otterbein.

It was a preceptor from her RN days, Audia Ellis, who was attending Otterbein’s FNP Program who made a big impression on her.

“She was one of the most intelligent and motivated individuals I had ever met, and I frequently would hear someone ask her a question at work and would find myself wondering, ‘How did she even know this?’ I watched as she studied her way through Otterbein’s FNP Program and how her knowledge and competence continued to grow. I knew that Otterbein’s program was top-notch.”

Once she completes her fellowship, Castle has her career planned out.

“I would like to stay in family practice. This was my original intent when entering the FNP Program, and I truly enjoy being able to follow my patients across their lifespan. Professionally, I’d like to be able to lead teams on mission trips and to work with organizations that serve marginalized communities. I would like to be settled into a family practice close to home and enjoy the life I’ve worked so hard for.”

Learn more about Otterbein's graduate nursing programs.