Q & A With A Family Nurse Practitioner: An Interview With Dani Williamson, FNP

Dani Williamson is a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and is double boarded as both a certified nurse midwife and family practice nurse practitioner. Dani has worked in women’s health since 1993 as a certified doula, childbirth educator and lactation support specialist. She is thrilled to be a part of a practice that looks at not only the illness, but the entire family and their environment by blending both traditional and integrative medicine.

She decided to pursue her degree as a family practice nurse practitioner when she realized that she wanted to build relationships with her patients by treating the entire family through the lifespan. Dani can be found online through her blog and Twitter.


  1. Where do you currently work? Can you talk about your key responsibilities as a family nurse practitioner?
  2. Do you have a typical work-day? If so, what might your average Tuesday look like?
  3. Tell us about your educational background. Did you start out studying towards an RN or did you have your long-term career path planned out to become a Family Nurse Practitioner?
  4. What is the best part about being a family nurse practitioner?
  5. What factors should a prospective NP student look for when selecting a graduate school?
  6. Do you have any advice for balancing NP school, work and a personal life?
  7. What are the most common misconceptions about nursing compared to the actual career?
  8. What is one piece of advice you would give an NP student, just starting out in the field?
  9. How do you see your profession changing or evolving over the next 10 years?

1. Where do you currently work? Can you talk about your key responsibilities as a family nurse practitioner?

I currently work for Cool Springs Family Medicine in Franklin TN. We are an integrative family medicine office. There are two CNM, FNP’s and one MD. We are all traditionally trained and offer and integrative approach to healthcare. Integrative medicine treats the cause behind the illness or condition, not simply symptoms. Of course if you are acutely ill, we treat the illness. What I love about my office is that we not only treat traditionally we ask questions about lifestyle, stress, diet and exercise that sometimes lead to the root of the real issue.

My key responsibilities involve an in depth history on the patients health, family history, diet, exercise, stress level etc. My focus has evolved into treating more endocrinology issues such as adrenal fatigue, thyroid, with Hashimoto’s as my interest, and sex hormones. I am detailed in finding out their toxicity levels with urine heavy metal testing, stool studies to evaluate dysbiosis of the gut bacteria and candida as well as saliva testing for hormones and cortisol levels. I have over 100 labs a day to review as well as patient emails to answer.

2. Do you have a typical work-day? If so, what might your average Tuesday look like?

I am thrilled to see Tuesday! That means I survived Monday and the barrage of phone calls for same day appointments and emails. Tuesdays are just like any other day for me. I average from 15-21 patients generally a day. I am blessed to get 40 minutes with most of my patients. As I have gotten more skilled in my job my follow up appointments are 20 minutes unless more time is needed to review the various testing we do I mentioned above. I work for a physician that doesn’t require I see 40 patients a day. It isn’t possible with integrative medicine to see that many patients daily, with the detailed visits we do. I begin seeing patients at 7:40 and end at 3:20 usually. I start earlier (I am generally in the office by 6:45 AM) than the other providers due to having to get my children to and from school.

3. Tell us about your educational background. Did you start out studying towards an RN or did you have your long-term career path planned out to become a Family Nurse Practitioner?

I was a non-traditional student at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. I have a MS in merchandising/design and had owned a retail store for 11 years. I had become a certified doula and childbirth educator as well. After I was divorced I decided to close the maternity store and pursue a degree in nursing. I wanted to be a Certified Nurse Midwife and Vanderbilt had a 2 year bridge program that I applied for. I had two young children and it became crystal clear that life as a single CNM would be very difficult and my quality of life as well as my children’s would suffer. So I decided to apply for the FNP program as well and am now both CNM/FNP, but practice as only an FNP. Although, I use my CNM education daily for my job. I love my dual degree and feel that I have the best of both worlds. Even though I do not deliver babies in my job, I get to do newborn exams and counsel pregnant women on nutrition, breastfeeding and labor weekly.

4. What is the best part about being a family nurse practitioner?

The best part is also the most challenging part of being and FNP! The fact that as a traditional FNP you do not have a specialty, therefore you have to continually keep a broad knowledge base of many disease processes. A typical day can consist of upper respiratory infections, otitis media to atrial fibrillation, cellulitis, Hashimoto’s Disease, erectile dysfunction to adrenal fatigue! I use Up To Date daily to read on the latest research on various topics.

5. What factors should a prospective NP student look for when selecting a graduate school?

I feel that it is important to find a school that values the individual that each of us are. The basics are standard to have to learn to pass the national exams, but the extra things like encouraging life experience is very important. For me, it was important to have a diverse class from all walks of life. If time is a factor then an online university or a Bridge program such as the one I went through would be very important. I was extremely well prepared when I graduated from my Bridge program.

6. Do you have any advice for balancing NP school, work and a personal life?

I am a single mother that moved to Nashville for NP school with an 8 and 9 year old and no family to help out. We were in 3 different schools for two of my 3 years in school. My advice is to find a good support group to help if you have children and have to work. My program was an accelerated program and it was not possible to work fulltime for me. I did teach yoga 2 days a week part-time. I must admit that I was a failure at balancing school, work and personal life well. I feel that the key to most everything in live is balance. And for most of my life I have not practiced what I preach daily. Only now am I learning to balance my priorities.

7. What are the most common misconceptions about nursing compared to the actual career?

A few that come to mind are the ones regarding that nurses are simply gofers for the MD. As an RN or NP you have your own scope of practice and especially as NP’s we practice side by side or independently in many states as our patients healthcare provider. Nurses are all women is a huge misconception. Some of the very best NP’s and nursing students I know are men. I love my male NP’s and it’s great to learn from them daily!

8. What is one piece of advice you would give an NP student, just starting out in the field?

Make sure you LOVE your job. Most likely they have many years to practice as an NP and I can’t imagine anything more miserable than not loving what I do on a daily basis. As well as stay current on all research and trends in our field. If you are practicing as an FNP but have a specialty you are interested in, then by all means learn all you can about it and be the person people call to make an appointment specifically for your knowledge! Set yourself apart!

9. How do you see your profession changing or evolving over the next 10 years?

The demand for more nurses with the change in our healthcare system and the aging population is a win win situation for nurse practitioners. Our knowledge and skill set will be in demand more than ever the next 10 years. The terminal degree of a DNP or PhD is changing our education base as well. This is the ideal time to be in nursing with nursing one of the top if not the top professions in the country. NP’s will be utilized in more specialty areas as well I am predicting as the healthcare model evolves.

It was not always possible to earn a family nurse practitioner degree online, but shifts in education have allowed more accredited schools these programs entirely online. While online FNP programs are still relatively new, dozens of master and doctoral nurse programs are available. To see if a school offers the right program for you, use the links below to contact a school to learn more.

Georgetown University
MSN in FNP Specialization
Georgetown University — Georgetown University is one of the few schools offering an online program for student pursuing a career as a family nurse practitioner. Established in 1789, Georgetown is one of America's oldest institutions for higher education and now offers over 100 programs through its eight schools from business to medicine and healthcare.
Kaplan University
MSN to DNP in Family Nurse Practitioner
Kaplan University — In addition to its several online nursing programs, Kaplan University has a MSN to DNP in Family Nurse Practitioner. Originally the American Institute of Commerce founded in 1937, Kaplan is one of the largest online schools with 70 campuses across the country and offers almost 200 online programs at the associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral levels.
University of Cincinnati
MSN in Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
MSN in Nurse Midwifery
University of Cincinnati — If you want to advance your career in nursing, the University of Cincinnati offers online degrees for nursing professionals including an MSN in Women's Health or Nursing Midwifery. UC was founded in 1819 and while the school now has over 42,000 students, the student to faculty ratio is only 15 to one, so you get the support and attention you need as you pursue your degree.
South University
MSN in Nurse Practitioner
South University — South University has an impressive online division that is convenient for working professionals trying to earn their MSN. A Georgia-based school, South U was founded in 1889 and now offers almost 30 online programs and has schools in eight states.

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