Katherine Mannahan

From childhood I knew that I would grow up to be a nurse. This may be due in part to the example of my mother, who is a nurse, but from a young age I simply could not imagine myself with any other career. Nursing has always seemed like an ideal career to me: while being intellectually stimulated by the science of nursing, one also has the opportunity to have poignant interactions with patients and families, as well as to take action to impact health on a community, national, and global level.

My career in nursing began with a BSN degree from Tulsa University. I then worked for three years, primarily on cardiac telemetry floors and in a post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). Although I learned a lot and enjoyed many wonderful patient and professional relationships, I realized that acute care was not for me. Increasingly inspired to devote myself to primary care and work on the front lines of preventing the chronic illnesses and complications affecting the patients that I worked with, I returned to school in the fall of 2004. Currently, I am thrilled to be working on a master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania. When I graduate, I look forward to providing primary care as a family nurse practitioner.

In addition to nursing education and experience, my career goals continue to reflect a variety of influences. For example, musical work that I did with hospice patients illustrated to me the tremendous effect that non-pharmacologic treatment can have on a patient's health and quality of life. International experiences in Haiti, Russia, Bahrain, and Thailand have opened my eyes to global health disparities, as well as to differing worldviews and strategies for the management of health problems we all share. These experiences have also shown me how powerful governmental decisions are in affecting the health of entire populations. Back home in the U.S., clinical experiences with low-income families has instilled a hunger in me to not only increase access to vital health services, but also to remove barriers to therapeutic collaboration with these families. Often, the culturally competent provider must not only reach across ethnic boundaries, but economic ones as well. I have discovered that the culture of poverty is not something that I understand intuitively; it is something I must learn.

The overarching goal of my career is to further health promotion both with individual patients and within larger healthcare and legislative systems. However, one of my favorite baccalaureate professors taught me that change is not always a process of simply working hard enough. She said that healthcare is large and complex, like an immovable brick wall. We can push against the wall as long and as hard as we want to, but never change it. In order to be a significant agent of change, we must identify the one brick we can move that, once moved, will change the shape of the entire wall.

I look forward to being a strategic mover of bricks, affecting the greatest possible change in the health of patients. Many of my colleagues are doing just that. I am grateful for the example of my mother and the wisdom of my teachers, as well as for the scholarship assistance from Nurses' Educational Funds. All are helping me on my journey. Together, we can move walls!