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Nurse practitioner graduate looking to break barriers in emergency departments

Amanda Goodman

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

When Reynaldo Kieser was 17 years old, he randomly selected nursing as his major when applying for university in his home state of Texas. 

“There was no preconceived thought about it. I don’t have any nurses in my family, and I never had any exposure to nursing as a child or teenager,” Kieser said. 

His introduction to nursing may have happened by chance but once Kieser found himself in the program, and eventually in the career, he knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be.  

From the start, he was drawn to emergency medicine. He worked at a high acuity trauma hospital for three years before deciding he needed a change and took a position as a traveling nurse. That job landed him in Arizona, where he has been an emergency nurse for seven years. He loved emergency nursing but started to want more out of his career.

“I knew that I was reaching a point where I wanted to expand my knowledge, scope of practice and what else I could do to help people,” he said. 

As that idea was percolating, he met April Hill, an emergency nurse practitioner and Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation faculty member. She mentioned the college was starting an emergency nurse practitioner graduate certificate program, something she thought he should look into. 

And so, he had another decision to make, but this time he knew exactly what he was doing. He applied and got accepted to the advanced nursing practice (family nurse practitioner), DNP program.

Reynaldo Kieser participates in an immersion experience, opening the airway of a pediatric patient

Reynaldo Kieser participates in an emergency nurse practitioner immersion experience as part of his graduate certificate program.

“ASU is great in that they offer a doctoral program, which is a terminal degree. I can finish the program knowing that I’ll have the highest education level for nurses. And also the whole point of me doing Edson College’s program was the emergency nurse practitioner certificate,” said Kieser.

He continued to work while in school. His drive comes from a place of wanting to prove that nurse practitioners not only belong in emergency medicine but can thrive there too. He says nurse practitioners deserve a spot at the table in any setting. 

By his side, through it, all was his husband, Brock. In fact, Kieser credits Brock for being able to take on as much as he has and for getting through the program.

“My husband is my No. 1 supporter. When I got into the program I knew some things on the homefront would have to move to the back burner and he took it like a champ. He picked up in the areas I was lacking; he’s been my partner, pushing me through the program, supporting me emotionally and encouraging me to continue even on the days when I’m just like, 'I don’t know how I can do all of this,'” he said.

A less intense schedule is just around the corner. Kieser passed his family nurse practitioner exam and was offered his dream job. He starts in August.

Ahead of graduation, he took some time to look back on his experience and the moments that meant the most.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: I was planning to do this program with as few extras as possible because I was continuing to work full time, be a spouse, dog dad and a friend. But I kept finding myself involved unexpectedly. For example, I ended up not only getting involved in the Graduate Nurses Organization but becoming the president as well.

The biggest thing I learned was the best way to lead is to serve, and that’s what GNO taught me. You can be an effective leader by who you serve, whether it be a community or fellow students. It also taught me that the team you surround yourself with is the key to success and learning how to trust that team is going to make you more impactful as a leader.

In the family nurse practitioner program, we focus not only on being exceptional clinicians but also leaders in the community. I feel as though I learned a lot about leadership during my tenure as president of GNO. So I’m very grateful for that experience and I’m hopeful those skills will transfer into my professional practice as well.  

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? 

A: They are all so great it’s really hard to narrow it down but Instructor April Hill for sure has been important. She was a catalyst to me starting, a mentor throughout and has basically guided just about every step I’ve made in this program. I want to follow in her footsteps and make an impact in emergency medicine for nurse practitioners. 

Also Charlotte Thrall, the family nurse practitioner program coordinator. There was a moment with her that I don’t even know if she remembers, but it was something she did that was so easy to do, so simple but it made such a big impact. She said, “You’re going to be a great nurse practitioner,” and then walked away. And I didn’t know that I needed that so much at that time. This was like the middle of the program, I was balancing a full-time load, adding the emergency certificate and leadership role in GNO to what I was already doing, and dealing with the COVID pandemic at work. So hearing that I was like, "Wow, I needed that more than I thought I did." And it just relit a fire that I felt may have been fading at that time.  

I’m a faculty associate as well for the undergraduate program and I use that same idea, understanding that at this point in their nursing program students need to hear that they’re going to be great, that they will do amazing — so I bring that into my own teaching. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: You are capable of more than you think. That’s the biggest piece of advice I would give anyone starting the DNP program at ASU. And also, you will have more support through this program than you may realize initially. This program is really challenging. It’s a lot of information, a lot of clinical hours. But, it’s not meant to be easy! It’s the highest degree of nursing and for some of us who continue working you can feel like you’re struggling to get by but you have resources to help you.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: There’s a balcony at Mercado C that I like to eat lunch at. It’s nice and shaded, not a lot of traffic — so you can just sort of escape from everything and everyone. That’s been my favorite spot.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I just landed an emergency nurse practitioner job in a local organization here in Phoenix, and I will be the only nurse practitioner in that role across the entire organization’s multiple emergency departments. Currently, the emergency departments are monopolized by physicians and physician assistants. I’m hoping that I can open the door for more nurse practitioners in the department, especially those from ASU. I may be the only one for now but I won’t be the only one forever.