Putting Pain in its Place

Natalie Kalvoda

Chamberlain graduate Natalie Kalvoda, MSN, FNP-BC, on advancing her education and learning the art of pain management

Natalie Kalvoda, MSN, FNP-BC, Chamberlain alumna and nurse practitioner at Chicagoland Pain Management, cares for people suffering from all types of chronic pain – neck pain, back pain, joint pain and more.

She prescribes medications and therapies for some patients. She establishes plans to wean other patients off of the high dosages of narcotics that they had been previously prescribed. She’s on call with several local emergency rooms, and also spends time on the hospital floor for pain management consults.

It’s a full day with a wide range of patients, but she has a soft spot in her heart for those suffering from the pain of cancer.

“When I started nursing, what appealed to me was really being involved with the patient,” said Natalie. “I just liked knowing that I could be there for people in their weakest moment and help them to continue on. That inspired me to see how far I could go.”

Advancing Her Education

And so she enrolled at Chamberlain to earn her bachelor’s degree through the RN to BSN degree completion option. Not long after, her father-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“The cancer really kind of hit home,” Natalie explained. “I already knew I wanted to be there to help with people’s pain, and having seen what my family member went through, I wanted to go further in nursing.”

She followed up her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Chamberlain by enrolling in the Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) Specialty Track, graduating in 2015.

“It was an amazing journey – difficult at times but well worth it,” she said. “I basically broke things down into what I could do and just focused on one thing at a time. And the instructors were fabulous. They were always there to answer any questions. They were very, very, very supportive.”

After completing the program, Natalie passed the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) family nurse practitioner certification exam on her first attempt – “That was the most stressful thing ever,” she said with a laugh.

Treating Pain While Educating Patients

Now, as a nurse practitioner, Natalie works alongside a collaborating physician at the clinic.

“We’re a team. The patients go back and forth between us. We have a good understanding of what’s going on with each patient and how we would like to take him or her to the ultimate goal for pain management.”

With the nation’s opioid crisis in full force, she says that patient education is key.

“I always teach that narcotics are a tool and not the mainstay of care. I’m always looking for that opportunity to wean them down while making sure everything is still OK.”

Natalie says she does see patients struggling with addiction. At the same time, she said, “You see patients with cancer that you know are hurting, but they don’t want anything because they want to have a clear head.”

Science Meets Art

In her year-and-a-half on the job, she’s gained experience and confidence, but knows she’ll always be learning.

“Pain is subjective. Learning how to accommodate that and reading what’s best for the patients is an art in itself. That’s something I’m still learning and trying to perfect, and will probably be something that will be a continued learning process because no person is the same.”

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