Their patients may be squeamish or embarrassed about the conditions they treat, but nurse practitioners and physician assistants in urology can make a huge difference to their lives.
These specialized providers assist physicians and surgeons who treat urologic disorders. Aimee Abben, a physician assistant at HealthPartners Specialty Urology Clinic (healthpartners.org) and at Regions Hospital (regionshospital.org), both in St. Paul, opted for urology because of the many opportunities it afforded her.
Abben works under the supervision of four surgeons and treats kidney stones; enlarged prostate glands; prostate, kidney and bladder cancer; hematuria or blood in the urine; incontinence; recurrent urinary tract infections; and inflammation of the epididymis (which makes and stores sperm) and of the testicles. She also teaches a class for patients about to have prostate surgery.
"I oftentimes will also assist with their surgery and see them post-op and round on them and see them for post-op clinical appointments," Abben said. "I see the whole aspect of what they go through, and I think it's helpful for the patients as well because it's a familiar face all the way through."
She also sees hospital patients who are admitted for other reasons but have urologic conditions, takes call and answers patient questions. "I like getting to follow patients through their conditions," Abben said. "I also like working with multiple physicians and I'm always learning from the docs."
Becky DeLuca, a nurse practitioner at Fairview Center for Bladder Control in Burnsville (fairview.org), planned to go into women's health and realized that working in urology could help many women to have normal lives. "It was the physician here at the clinic, Dr. Steven
Bernstein, who really kind of lit the spark that this might be a good fit for me," DeLuca said.
Many of her patients have urinary stress or urge incontinence, urinary frequency or urinary retention (the inability to empty the bladder). Others have recurrent urinary tract infections, hematuria, or neurogenic bladder, a nerve disorder that affects the bladder.
Women's urinary problems are "very, very common and under-addressed," DeLuca said.
Emerging therapies, including implantable devices, intrigue her. "We're always looking for ways to improve the general health and always on the cutting edge of helping women," DeLuca said. "Women don't have to put up with this. They feel like there's nothing out there to help them and that's just not true."