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APP Spotlight: Allison Gibson, ACNP

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

For Allison Gibson, ACNP, the decision to work in neurocritical care was a daunting but rewarding one. Now as part of our Neuro Intensive Care Unit (Neuro ICU), she's part of a multidisciplinary team to offer 24-hour provider coverage for some of the most critical patients at Duke University Hospital. In this week’s “Spotlight” interview, Gibson talks to us about the respect and teamwork that brings the Neuro ICU’s team together and earning her doctorate, co-opening a fitness studio, and raising an eight-year-old in her spare time. She also offers tips for staying active while also having a busy schedule.

What are your current responsibilities within the Neurology Department? What does a typical day for you look like?
Currently, I work in the Neuro ICU at Duke University Hospital as an acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP). In my current position I work only in the ICU and care for patients with neurologic bases to their critical illness. 

When I am at work I function as the house officer on the interdisciplinary team to care for eight critically ill patients. In the neuro ICU the ACNPs provide 24-hour provider coverage for patients, which allows me to be an expert on the neurologic exams and details of my patients.

As the house officer I act as the contact person for members of the interdisciplinary team, helping to coordinate and continue the plan of care for my patients. Day to day the tasks I perform vary: I participate in interdisciplinary rounds, act as a resource to new learners on the unit, partner with nursing staff to ensure appropriate and safe care is being delivered, and perform bedside procedures as needed.

How and when did you decide to work in neurocritical care?
I received my ACNP here at Duke where I made the conscious decision to pursue critical care. I did a rotation through the neuro ICU during my clinical rotations and loved the experience.

I have a background in cardiac nursing so coming into the neurology world was daunting, but I loved the team in the neuro ICU. The respect between disciplines was evident on rounds. Individuals were coming from different backgrounds and perspectives to discuss and provide care for a singular patient. I figured I could learn the neurology but finding another unit that pushed ACNPs to function to their highest scope of practice and valued each member of the team for their unique contributions was rare.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
The best part of my job is my coworkers. From an attending perspective I get to work closely with my physician. I get the opportunity and freedom to design the plan of care for patients, perform procedures, and holistically care for patients but always with support.

From an ACNP perspective we have such a great team of providers. The ACNPs I work with help to create a framework of stability for the unit. I trust each one of them to support me, to provide consistent high quality work, and without fail to be there. I couldn’t imagine work without them.

From a nursing perspective I couldn’t say enough. The nurses carry our unit providing direct care for our patients. They function as my eyes, ears, and reality check on the unit. They place a personal touch to the patient care experience that cannot be articulated. When a patient care experience is positive it wasn’t because I came up with the plan or wrote the orders, it is because of the bedside nurse and all the in-betweens.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
I would say the hardest part of my job is watching families. Nobody comes to the ICU for fun. People are sick when they come to the ICU. While modern medicine has come a long way there are some things we can not fix. Having to meet people at their worst and give news that isn’t the best is hard. I get the privilege to be invited into some of the most personal moments of a patients or families life. Knowing how to best meet the needs of each patient and family is a continuous learning experience for me.


In addition to your clinical work, you also co-own and run Cor4 fitness studio. What work does that involve?
In addition to work at Duke, my husband and I are opening a gym in Chapel Hill, Cor4 Fitness Studio. My husband, Cory, is really the heart of the studio and has been working in fitness for years. Slowly, over the years he has developed a workout that is entirely different, focused on lean muscle building, cardiovascular reserve, and injury prevention. Cor4 came from a core group of friends that grew into a community following of individuals who wanted more from their workouts. Cor4 has grown from a garage to a small group fitness studio now opening early 2020!

My role with the gym is largely one of support in whatever capacity that takes. We have been in the process of construction, presales, and marketing over the past few months. Seeing as my background is health care I have been on a large learning curve over the past year and continue to learn daily.

In nursing they teach you about health promotion and illness prevention. In the ICU my role is always to prevent something from happening again or managing a problem that has already happened. I loved Cory’s idea for a gym that took personal training to a group environment because it was a workout that had longevity, support, and could still be personalized to you. Cor4 is a way for me to work with people who are not sick and are working to be healthy.

What are some tips you have to help other people stay active despite having busy schedules?
The bottom line there are only 24 hours of the day and you are only one person. Having a workout routine that becomes part of your life is the key. To start you just have to find one hour of the day that you can dedicate to working out. Ideally, you work up to one hour three times a week. Think of it as three hours out of 168 you are prioritizing for your health.

Then find an efficient way to work out. You don’t have time to spend doing a 2-hour workout that is unorganized. Find a workout routine that is time efficient but also purposeful. You want your one-hour to count. Workouts should have a goal.

Be equally forgiving and hard on yourself. Some weeks are busier than others and it just doesn’t happen. So you didn’t get to work out this week, acknowledge it, and move on. Find someone or a community that can help keep you motivated and accountable.

What other passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
We have an eight-year-old daughter. So free time goes to being with her. Lately, we can be found at the bowling alley. I love dogs, (we have two). I enjoy swimming when I can find the time. I love reading science fiction novels. Currently, I am back in school to finish my doctorate in nursing. While I cannot say it’s a fun experience going back to school I am passionate about the importance of professional nursing and the value that nurses offer.



Gibson and family enjoy a quiet moment between work, school, working out and opening a new business.