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National Nurses Week 2010 Profilies in Nursing: Carole Cottet, FNP, WHCNP

Carole Cottet, FNP, WHCNP


Beaverton, OR – Carole Cottet of Beaverton is one of the very first Nurse Practitioners in the state of Oregon, and remains the longest practicing NP at one of the largest women’s health clinics in the United States. Nurse Practitioners are nurses who have an advanced degree in nursing and, as a result, are licensed to examine and diagnose patients, and prescribe medications; tasks that registered nurses and licensed practical nurses are not able to perform.

"Women’s health has always been my passion,” says Cottet. When asked about her longevity, and the success of her clinical practice, she says, "I am a listener. I want to hear my patient’s stories, I want to listen to what they have to say. Rather than just jumping straight to diagnosis, I spend my time listening, and listening carefully. What you hear can make a real difference.”

Cottet works at Northwest Gynecology Center, part of the Women’s Healthcare Associates group of clinics, with more than 50 clinicians providing health care services to thousands of women throughout the Portland metropolitan area. She has been a Nurse Practitioner at the center since 1977. A graduate of Emanuel Hospital’s School of Nursing program in 1969, Cottet obtained a certificate as a Womens Health Nurse Practitioner in 1974. She returned to school in 1987 for her Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree from Linfield College. In 1997, Cottet graduated summa cum laude from OHSU’s Master of Nursing program as a Family Nurse Practitioner although she limits her practice to gyncecology.

"When I went back for my NP degree, most people had no idea what a Nurse Practitioner was. Most people thought of the degree as a practical nursing degree, not as an advanced, specialist degree. As health care has changed, and the role of NPs has grown, many more people now know just how important NPs are in our health care system.”

In many clinical settings around the country, NPs are employed by physicians in a supporting role. At her clinic, Cottet is a partner in the clinic’s management team. "Our clinic is very progressive and forward thinking. I am a full partner in this clinic, working side by side with physicians, other Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives. Not as an employee of the doctors, but as a partner and colleague.”

Liberato Mukul, MD, and Susan Hobson, MD, Cottet’s colleagues at the center, agree. "Carole is a remarkable woman, and an invaluable colleague. She has patients that she has seen for more than 30 years. Women trust and value her care so much they come from all over the state to see her.” said Hobson.

"Carole truly is a pioneer in the nursing profession,” said Susan King, Executive Director of the Oregon Nurses Association, which honored Cottet with a Meritorious Service Award in 1997. "She is the model for how Nurse Practitioners and advanced care nurses should and will be practicing in the future. Not as subordinates to physicians, but as full partners in the delivery of quality care for all patients.”

Cottet’s role as a Nurse Practitioner enables her to focus not just on a specific diagnosis or immediate medical problem, but on the patient as a whole. "Nurse Practitioners are trained to think of our patients as a whole person, not just as a single symptom or illness. NPs offer care that fits the patient, and we see and understand our role as advocates for our patients, both in the clinic, in the system of health care delivery, and legislatively,” Cottet said.

"At one time, Oregon was the very best state in the country for promoting and advancing the role of Nurse Practitioners in the delivery of care. Now, other states have started to copy Oregon, but we set the standard for the practice of Nurse Practitioners,” said Cottet, who was directly involved in lobbying the Oregon legislature to allow NPs the ability to prescribe medications for their patients, an ability once only reserved for physicians.

The passage of national health care reform will continue to change the role of Nurse Practitioners, says Cottet. "Our clinic is the model we should be following in the future. We have an approach to patient care that puts the patient first, and our patients don’t feel like they are on an assembly line. Primary care will be delivered more and more by NPs, enabling physicians to stay focused on specialist care and treatment.”

Mukul, one of Cottet’s physician colleagues, said, "We all work as a team, and Carole is one of our most valuable team members.”

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