Member Highlight: Lauren Hedenschoug on the importance of leadership and being aware of current practice issues and trends
Lauren Hedenschoug, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, has been a nurse for 21 years. Hedenschoug attended nursing school at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with a few of her close friends, graduating with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing before entering into public health. Not long had passed before Hedenschoug and her friends began discussing the prospect of returning to school together, and before she knew it, she found herself back at UIC pursuing her Master of Science in Nursing.
Hedenschoug worked various positions throughout graduate school, including serving as a research assistant for a Ph.D. nurse. The nurse she worked for specialized in neuroscience, so Hedenschoug became trained in electron microscopy, spending a great deal of time dissecting and analyzing lab rats' brain tissue to determine the impact of strokes on a neural, cellular level. "We went to a global neuroscience convention in Florida and presented our posters, which was just such a great opportunity. I was published in three different articles in neuroscience with the Ph.D. nurse, so it was a very different, unique, and great opportunity."
When Hedenschoug acquired her FNP license in 2007, she began working at an internal medicine pain and addiction practice, where she stayed nearly five years. As the only nurse practitioner, she often needed to educate others on what a nurse practitioner was. "Many positions in private settings that hired advanced practice providers were still not knowledgeable on our role. They weren't sure what the difference between an NP and a PA was in practice. I spent a lot of time educating different providers on our role and what we were capable of doing."
Finding her niche
When Hedenschoug moved on to a clinical coordinator position at Walgreens Clinics, she discovered her love of education. "I trained many NP students from different universities, and I realized I just loved education. It was actually one of my students that suggested I look into education within a pharmaceutical company. I initially brushed it off, explaining that I'm not one to sell anything; I'm just not that sort of a person. But after she explained the role of educators in pharmaceuticals on the medical side, I decided to go for it, and that's where I've been for almost six years now."
Hedenschoug now serves as Senior Field Medical Educator for Takeda Pharmaceuticals. She provides free, non-promotional, non-branded disease state education to healthcare providers ranging from dietitians, nurses, NPs, PAs, community physicians, specialty nurses -- anyone in the community that provides care to patients with Short Bowel Syndrome.
Hedenschoug travels a great deal in her role, something she would never have done had she gone down a different path. Her travel made her realize a need to educate others on ISAPN and the nurse practitioner role. "When I started the position as an educator, I covered multiple states and talked to so many nurse practitioners about how their practice changes have affected them. And I felt like I wanted to connect with other NPs in my state, not only for awareness but for networking. I went all over Illinois for this job, and there are so many who are unaware of ISAPN and the full-practice authority that we attained; I was shocked. And I just thought, I need to help get the word out."
Hedenschoug was recently elected ISAPN's Region 7 Board Member and is looking forward to addressing the disconnect among newer nurse practitioners unaware of the importance of connecting with societies like ISAPN. "I'm also on the social media task force, and we have great ideas and hot topics, but it is a question of; how do we get them out there? How do we reiterate how impactful it can be to join a society where thousands of other people like you are going through the same things? When I was in school, we had the importance of connecting and remaining connected to nursing societies ingrained into us. We were ISAPN members because our faculty were engaged through the board and committee members, which always stuck with us. It's all about helping others and seeing what we can do together as a large society to improve things. My goal is to increase networking, increase our education within our society, and help other NPs who may not know about us yet. It is a great resource, and I think more people should know about it."
Hedenschoug finds ISAPN to be particularly helpful for continuing education and networking. "I always look at ISAPN first for any type of continuing education. Listening and hearing from my peers in the state of Illinois opens up different networking and collaborative opportunities. Whether you're looking to find a new job, building a referral network, or simply connecting with others, it is a great resource for all of those things."
Shining a light on nursing
As we continue vaccinations in what is the second year of the COVID pandemic, Hedenschoug says, "I'm looking forward to seeing nurses displayed as frontline workers in need of support from the community and patients. Hopefully, this raises awareness of the role that we play and its impact on healthcare and disease states during the pandemic. I hope that this encourages younger people to consider becoming a nurse practitioner to help these populations of patients."
Hedenschoug encourages those just starting out to be open to new experiences and opportunities. "Stick with it, be confident, and be open. There are so many opportunities that arise, and not everyone is aware of that. You may end up wanting to do something completely different in the same field that you're in, and that's so humbling. As we get older and more experienced, we really find our niche."