Nurse Education, Practice and Retention (NEPR) - Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)

It's All in Nursing!

Career Center

University of Michigan Health System - Nursing at Michigan
Opal Lesse MSN, RN, APRN, FNP-BC
Area of specialty: Nurse Practitioner - Urology 

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" My Career as a nurse is full circle and now when I see someone that needs guidance, I tell them 'You would be a great nurse' and give them information about how to become one."

I was young, a waitress with three small children, when a wonderful lady I was waiting on said to me as she finished her dinner, "You would be a wonderful Nurse". That planted a seed. I found out later that this woman was the department head of Washtenaw Community College's, LPN program.

I started at WCC and graduated as an LPN in 1978 where I took my first job in a cardiac step down unit. I went back to WCC and finished an ADN program in 1983 then started at The University of Michigan Health System in the float pool, known as "CSR" then. The CSR was the first of it's kind in the state and many institutions were looking at it as a model back then.

I was an ICU float in the old hospital and helped move to the new U of M hospital. I went over to Kellogg Eye Center after having two more children, (now 18 and 21).  After that position ended, I landed in Trauma Burn. I mainly took care of the children within this unit. I grew to love some of them as my own. As a unit, many of the nurses would be the only family the child had due to social conditions or death of their caretakers. Many of those children are grown now and come to visit me on holidays and send me pictures and cards of their families.

I felt I could make more of a difference as a nurse with a BSN and went back to school -this time at University of Michigan's School of Nursing and graduated with honors in 1994. Shortly after that, I transferred to unit 5A as a Care Coordinator and assisted with Ortho, Trauma and Urology pathways for care. I also began mentoring BSN students.

I went on to Michigan State to get a Masters in Nursing in 2000 and Advance Practice degree in Nursing and a Family Nurse Practitioner at the same time. I now mentor NP's from U of M, and other nursing programs.

I work as an Nurse Practitioner in Urology (inpatient), this keeps me at the bedside - and with my family background, I assess the whole family, not just the disease/injured state for wellness. I can make a difference at the bedside with the nurses and with new interns with my advance knowledge and teaching experience in all areas.

I have traveled the world and where ever I have gone my profession and experience has been valuable; with assistance on a plane with an asthmatic woman, to a man hit by a car in London.

My career launched me into the legislative arena.  I became involved with the local branch of the MNA, Chapter 8 (which no longer exists), as a delegate, VP, then President. I became active in legislative issues for change for nurses and wrote many letters to congressmen and to newspapers about Nursing and the challenges within our practice. I have been involved in research, developed educational books and published a few articles. My career as a nurse is full circle and now when I see someone that needs guidance, I tell them, "You would be a great nurse." and give them information about how to become one.


Editor's Note:
If you'd like to explore some of the aspects of the nursing profession mentioned in this feature; (perhaps publishing, research, or legislative issues), but don't know how to go about getting started - consider contacting the CPDM. This might provide you direction and resources to get started on a similar path.

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Last modified: 2/18/09

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