Faculty-run outpatient clinic integrates academic, career settings

Erin Leighton, Doctor of Nursing Practice ’20, begins her work day at Appletree Bay Primary Care by triaging email and phone messages from patients, hospitals and health care providers. She routes the messages to her fellow clinicians and health care partners, and answers questions from patients about their symptoms, medication needs or self-care instructions.

As patients arrive for medical appointments, Leighton moves through examination rooms to draw blood, check glucose levels, give vaccinations and administer tests for lung function, blood clotting or illnesses such as strep throat. She works side-by-side with the clinic’s nurse practitioners, all of whom teach in the Nursing program at the University of Vermont.

Appletree Bay Primary Care, part of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, is an outpatient clinic that serves 25-40 patients daily. Leighton enjoys the fast pace and intellectual challenge, along with the opportunity to apply concepts learned in the classroom.

“It brings my academic community and work life together,” Leighton said. “I’ve been able to cultivate relationships with providers and professors because they wear both hats here. I can ask my professors questions while I’m working and learn on the job."

Leighton began her nursing journey as a student in the Direct Entry Nursing Program, which provides an accelerated path to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree. The D.N.P. provides the academic and clinical experience needed to earn national certification as a nurse practitioner and provide primary care, including physical exams, prescribing medicines and authorizing treatments. 

“My ultimate career goal is to become a nurse practitioner in a primary care setting. I plan to continue working as a nurse while in nurse practitioner school, and this is exactly the kind of job I was looking for,” Leighton said. “The care here is very patient-focused. We ask patients what’s important to them listen to their answers and modify treatment plans based on shared goals.”


Janet Lynn Essman Franz