The first time I set foot into a nursing home I was sixteen and began volunteering in the activities department helping with various craft programs and visiting with residents. I loved it from the very beginning because of the relationships and stories I gained from working with the older adult population. From this experience, I decided to obtain my nursing assistant certification after high school and worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) while attending college. I worked in various settings as a CNA including a nursing home, then in orthopedics within a larger hospital setting followed by pediatric home health. I knew I wanted a varied experience to learn as much as possible in the health field. Through some of my experiences, however, I was slightly discouraged from entering the nursing field due to the high stress and staffing issues I observed while working as a CNA. I knew I enjoyed health care and working with people. Therefore, I decided to major in Biology and pursue a goal of furthering my career in the health field by planning for graduate study in physical therapy.
I attended Berea College, a small school located in a rural area of Kentucky. Berea College, despite its rural location and small size, provided an excellent education opportunity for people mainly from the Appalachian region who would otherwise not have the financial means to attend college. Berea College provided a tuition free liberal arts education with many varied opportunities for enrichment in local, national, and international cultural experiences through travel, service opportunities, and coursework. Through my time spent at Berea College, I found my interest in Appalachian culture and the specialized need to provide service for the disadvantaged rural poor.
Although I enjoyed my studies in the biological sciences and knew my goal was to continue my education through graduate study in physical therapy and rehabilitation, I realized that nursing encompassed my passion of service due to its holistic nature. After careful thought and contemplation of which direction I wanted to pursue in health care, I decided to attend nursing school. I remembered my experience as a CNA, both the rewarding and the challenging experiences. I decided to commit myself to dealing with the challenges that laid ahead in nursing including the stress and limited staffing issues I had noticed prior in my work as a CNA. With my baccalaureate degree in biology, I had the required prerequisites for an accelerated baccalaureate program in nursing at Johns Hopkins University. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in the summer of 2002 and began working as a registered nurse in a nephrology and hepatology unit including transplant. Since this first position I have worked as a registered nurse in a medical intensive care unit and currently in hematology and oncology specializing in bone marrow transplant. All of these positions have served as both rewarding and challenging and have built a strong varied experience for me to continue furthering my education and career in nursing.
I began graduate study in nursing in the fall of 2005 at Boston College School of Nursing. Through all of my work in the nursing field, I have always been drawn to my older patients and knew I wanted to specialize in geriatrics. I am currently pursing a master’s in adult and geriatric health and plan to practice as a nurse practitioner either within a nursing home or as a part of a practice in a rural clinic setting. My interest lies in the improvement of quality care for the older adult population in rural underserved areas, particularly in the Appalachian Region. I will be working on a project funded by the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship over the next year. The goal of this fellowship is to create a sustainable program to address depression and isolation in older adults living within senior housing in a relatively rural area of New Hampshire and help them connect with available services within the community.
Through my experiences in nursing and in my courses thus far at Boston College, I continue my passion for working with the older adult population. I know that my work as an adult and geriatric nurse practitioner with be an important part of my role in addressing improvement for quality care for our aging population but I understand my responsibility does not stop here. As an advanced practice nurse, I will have a stronger voice to use for lobbying for better health care funding. Our growing older adult population will continue to pose as a challenge as the baby boomers age and our health care budget continues to be depleted and cut backs are made in vital areas. Speaking up for improved services for older adults, especially those living in rural areas, will be crucial in maintaining quality of life for older adults who plan to age in place within their own homes and those who reside in assisted and long term care communities.