Sue A Benson

People fascinate me! Each of us has a unique story to tell. Through our stories, we connect our lives and build relationships. Those relationships have the capacity to change people, communities, or even entire nations.

I was changed by the relationship of one superior caregiver. While working as a health attendant at a state hospital some 35 years ago, I noticed an evening supervisory nurse who was different from other nurses. Instead of giving a major tranquilizer to anxious patients, she gave them a glass of orange juice and sat at their bedside, listening, and guiding the conversation until they were able to sleep. I was hooked!

While studying for my BSN at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, I looked for a project to make a difference on campus. I chose to lobby the Alaska Legislation for financial funding and support for a highly needed Student Health Center on campus. During that process, I recruited another student nurse to mentor and guide in the process. Together, we succeeded in getting the funding and support. Today, the busy Student Health Center is operated by 7 nurse practitioners who provide student-focused services, such as: contraceptive care, mental health screening and counseling, nutrition classes, immunizations, and walk-in appointments.

After graduation, I was accepted for an internship in public health, to work in rural Alaskan villages. I learned that knowing cultural customs makes communication clearer which results in better care for patients. The seed from that experience is driving my passion for cultural diversity. In the past three years, I've had the opportunity to develop and manage a successful congestive heart failure (CHF) clinic for our Veterans Administration population in Austin. The program drastically dropped hospitalization rates by building strong relationships with patients and teaching them to manage their illness at home. However, medical intervention, education, encouragement, frequent visits and monitoring were not enough for some of our patients. Some refused to make lifestyle changes and became dependent on frequent medication adjustments. "Something was missing". These are words that challenge me to learn more about self-care behaviors and cultural differences.

I have had the opportunity to practice many different aspects of nursing, such as: critical care, occupational health, hospice, disease management, quality management, office nursing, and camp nursing. During that time, I was a single mom raising two children. With my children now out achieving their own dreams, I have the opportunity to return to school, to make my own dreams come true. I plan to expand my knowledge of health promotion and disease management in underserved Hispanic communities.

My professional goals are to further my education to become a family nurse practitioner, with a minor in teaching. This is my first year at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio (UTHSCSA). Besides my rigorous class work, I'm involved in volunteer projects: serving as a graduate member for the Student Health Advisory committee; helping at a homeless shelter; and assisting a professor on a community research study. This past summer, I was fortunate to participate in a Medical-Surgical mission trip to Guatemala in the roles of a teaching assistant for two of our undergraduate students, staff development and registered nurse. I strive to learn the Spanish language, to be better prepared to practice and teach in the underserved Hispanic population. I'm attracted to the richness of their culture and to the challenges of effecting change in the multi-faceted socio-economic health disparities. Social issues like, how we provide health care to those who work minimum wage jobs without health insurance benefits, intrigue me.

Knowledge is power, and as nurses, we need to be involved in research, and utilizing it in our practice. There is a gap between what research is discovering, and how nurses are practicing. Evidence based practice provides the tools to effect change. Continuing my education has connected me with experts, resources and experiences to meet my challenge to make a difference and make positive changes in the health of people, communities and maybe even the nation!