Photo by Isaac Harrell
After six years working as a nurse with a family practice, Jeannie Shelton wanted to take her career to the next level and become a nurse practitioner. "I realized I could go back [to school] and do so much more for my patients," she recalls.
Shelton's big step paid off. Thirteen years later, she is a kidney transplant nurse practitioner at the Virginia Transplant Center at Henrico Doctors' Hospital, where she is highly esteemed by her colleagues.
Dr. Gerardo Mendez-Picon with Richmond Surgical Group calls Shelton the "best clinician in town."
At the transplant center, where there are 50 to 60 kidney transplants each year, Shelton tends to patients from immediately after surgery to years down the road when complications and infections may arise. She makes rounds at the hospital, checking in on her patients, making sure medications are taken, surgical issues are addressed and recovery is taking place.
"Every day I come here, there is a different puzzle to solve, whether it's figuring out how patients are [doing on] medication or the infection process. … And that brings me to work every day, to solve these puzzles and help these people," says Shelton, who has been at the transplant center for eight years.
"She is a transplant nurse practitioner who works like an M.D.," says Dr. Ralph Layman, a surgeon at Virginia Transplant Center who has worked with Shelton for four years. "She has an excellent clinical acumen," he adds. "And as far as the patients she takes care of, she does as much initial diagnosing as a normal doctor."
Shelton credits her success as a kidney transplant nurse practitioner to her broad foundation of knowledge in nursing, from her first nursing job to her studies as a family nurse practitioner at Virginia Commonwealth University.
"The part of this that keeps you going in the same position are the people you meet," she says, "from the physicians that have taught me so much about transplant nephrology — who have broadened my knowledge — to the nurses who are just exceptional."