Nurse Practitioners Fill Vital Role in Improving Access to Health Care

 One Woman’s 19-year Journey

nicole-abbgy-cr-1Determination. Commitment. Resilience.

For Nicole Abbgy, NP-C, life has always been about finding the right balance between work, school and parenting. “Part of the reason I chose nursing is that you can pursue a degree in phases, unlike medical school.”

Today Abbgy is a nurse practitioner (NP) who has the best of both worlds: As mid-level providers, nurse practitioners “can see, diagnose, treat and write prescriptions for patients, just as physicians do,” she explained. “We also have the support and oversight of a physician if we have questions.” Advanced practice professionals, such as NPs, serve patients by increasing access to care. She is one of 144 advanced practice professionals working at Mercy Health Physician Partners in Grand Rapids.

Since her early college days, Abbgy knew she wanted a career in the medical field. She worked toward that goal by pursuing nursing — her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Grand Valley State University and her Master of Science in Nursing from Spring Arbor University — while raising her children as a single parent.

Abbgy also worked at Mercy Health for most of the past 19 years, first as a patient care assistant (1997), as a registered nurse in a cardiac step-down unit (2000), in critical care (2002) and now as an nurse practitioner at Mercy Health Internal Health and Residency Center. She passed national boards for NPs in July 2016.

After briefly leaving Mercy Health for another local job in medical care, she returned to work on Saint Mary’s Campus. For Abbgy, the biggest draw to working for Mercy Health was and continues to be the organization’s Mission Statement and Core Values: “The spirit of compassion and commitment to serve the underserved really spoke to me.”

As with many patients she nursed in the critical care unit, a significant number of the patients she sees today require complex care. “What drew me toward primary care now,” she said, “was being able to build a relationship with patients and to help prevent them from ending up in critical care someday. I feel I can make an important difference for people in this new role.”

Providing access to quality health care to the underserved in an urban setting is a passion Abbgy takes seriously. “In the future I would like to learn more about Heartside Health Center and Browning Clator Health Center and maybe give back to the community that way,” she said.

If you are thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner, Abbgy offers this advice:

  • You have to really care about the patients. With studying medicine, you can get caught up in the knowledge and technology, but it all boils down to the patient.
  • It will be hard — you’ll have moments when you want to quit. Don’t throw in the towel.
  • Lean on family and friends. Getting your degree and reaching your goal are achievable.

Mercy Health supports the ongoing education of its colleagues. To learn more about professional growth opportunities in nursing, contact Kristine Todd, director of RN practice and development at

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