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Military Veteran, NKU Faculty Member Brian Burkhardt Thrives in Healthcare Roles

NKU MSN AGACNP faculty Brian Burkhard

With 23 years working full time at the same hospital, 14 years serving the same agency part time and 10 years teaching at the same university, Brian Burkhardt is the model of consistency and many irons in the fire at any given time.

Starting in the military in preventive medicine led Burkhardt to discover that he loved “helping and taking care of people.” Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Eastern Kentucky University was a natural next step for him.

After graduation, Burkhardt worked in intensive care and emergency medicine. His desire to make a bigger impact for his patients led him to expand the scope of his knowledge, and he graduated from the University of Kentucky as an acute care nurse practitioner in 2004.

“Throughout my career I’ve been really lucky. I have gotten to do a lot of pretty cool stuff,” said Burkhardt who works in cardiac surgery as a nurse practitioner.

Following a stint in orthopedic surgery in eastern Kentucky, he moved back to the northern part of the state in 2006 where he has since worked in vascular and cardiac surgery at St. Elizabeth Hospital.

On the Front Line

During his time in northern Kentucky, Burkhardt received a request from NKU to help develop and teach the acute care program at a time when there were few acute care nurse practitioners in the area.

“When asked if I wanted to help, I said, ‘I’d love to. I don’t even care what it pays — all I want to do is teach,” Burkhardt said.

He is currently in his tenth year at NKU, which now offers the MSN – Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner online program.

“Initially, the program was a combination of online and in person, but it is now all online to facilitate more students who work and have families,” Burkhardt said.

He was born in Alexandria, Virginia, and moved to Kentucky when he was 6 years old. As a young adult he lived in Eastern Kentucky where his firsthand experience of healthcare disparities kindled his desire to help those in need.

In addition to teaching at NKU and working in cardiac surgery, Burkhardt serves part time on the federal disaster medical assistance team.

“Just prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., I was sent to Lackland Air Force base to care for patients returning from Wuhan and Japan,” he said. “We were still learning new things about the virus daily. It was interesting to be at the forefront of the pandemic, knowing what we do now.”

Forward, March

Burkhardt has seen the role of the nurse practitioner grow along with the master’s degree program he helped develop at NKU.

“Hospitals are starting to look at nurse practitioners in different roles as the field grows,” he said. “Hopefully, we will see a shift toward better utilization of NPs within the hospital.”

Based on his experience, Burkhardt believes that nurse practitioners have a “lot to offer,” given their training and experience as nurses.

“We understand the needs of the patients we care for and how we can help their recovery process,” he said.

With a decade of teaching under his belt, Burkhardt has seen several former students go on to significant achievements with NKU’s MSN program as a springboard.­­

“My former students are precepting other people,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see them taking a leading role in helping not only patients but other students in their journey. I enjoy seeing students develop and grow, going into the world with confidence.”

Grading papers and seeing students progress through the program are reminders for Burkhardt of his impact as an educator.

“It’s always in the back of my mind that my student is someone I am going to be working with or trusting with patients,” he said. “I want to make sure they know what they’re doing — and that they feel comfortable. I also want to know that I feel comfortable with their knowledge base for getting started. I love seeing my students succeed.”

Burkhardt and his wife, Shellie, have two sons — Seth (22) and Noah (18) — and reside in Walton, Kentucky. He has no plans to slow down his busy life any time soon, which is good news for all three of his employers and legions of his former, current and future students.

“As long as I can do it, I want to keep teaching,” he said. “I do it every day with patients, families and students. I love teaching, caring and making a difference in the lives of everyone I come across.”

Learn more about NKU’s online MSN – Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program.

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