Skip to content

KILN juniors complete summer projects funded by Boston College Advanced Study Grant

October 17, 2016

In recognition of the value of student-designed projects that supplement curricular learning, Boston College awards Advanced Study Grants to promising undergraduate students. In the summer of 2016, two KILN juniors, Lanah Han and Lea Nelligan, submitted winning proposals. Lanah traveled to South Korea to complete her project, “Exploring Options for US Healthcare: Lessons to Be Learned from South Korea,” and Lea traveled to Ecuador to complete her project, “Care of the Whole Person: Medicine and Cultural Connection.” Lanah and Lea share their reflections below:


My firsthand experience in South Korea has allowed me to realize many things about the healthcare system and about myself. After seeing the success of universal healthcare implementation in South Korea, I believe that it is possible to improve healthcare across the world. I want to address health equity issues and contribute to improving healthcare access and quality for all.


Lanah Han and a pharmacy in South Korea

I am interested in learning more about global health and finding out how other countries manage their healthcare system; however, I know that I will face unexpected challenges along the way, including language barriers. I even struggled with this in South Korea, my native country. Although I am relatively fluent in Korean, I had some difficulty understanding the medical terminology. Immediate change is impossible. However, I hope to slowly bring about change by shifting people’s perspectives on the healthcare system. I am very grateful to the faculty who guided me toward a successful Advanced Study Grant application and I recommend that others pursue the opportunity.

Lanah Han

Traveling to a foreign country alone was a major step for me that will allow me to better serve the Spanish-speaking populations I work with after graduation.


Lea Nelligan (left) with her host mom in Quito, Ecuador

My host mother in Quito, Ecuador, Gloria Ines, did not speak any English. I learned to use body language, gestures and expression in addition to language, and sometimes it was necessary to pull out a Spanish-English dictionary. In addition to language and cultural immersion, I realized my passion for mental health issues and saw the great need for resources in Latin America. This new direction has already led me to pursue jobs in the mental health field, and I have realized that social service resources for at-risk populations are scarce even in the US. Overall, going to Ecuador for Spanish immersion was so much more than language acquisition. The incredible level of independence I had helped me grow a leader, because I had to advocate for myself and learn how to work autonomously. I am truly grateful for this opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Lea Nelligan

KILN Scholars and Mentors Present at Sigma Theta Tau International Leadership Conference

October 3, 2016

On September 18-20, KILN students and mentors attended the Sigma Theta Tau International Leadership Connection conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Kathryn Free ’17 and Elizabeth (Lizzy) Byrne ’17 presented posters featuring research conducted with faculty mentors Stewart Bond and Judith Vessey. KILN director and mentor Catherine Read presented a podium session (co-authored by Debra Pino Betancourt) entitled “Preparing Nursing Students as Leaders for Social Change.”

Kathryn and Elizabeth offered their reflections on the experience:


Kathryn Free (’17) with her research poster

Attending Sigma’s Leadership Connection Conference and presenting the work I have done as an Undergraduate Research Fellow was an incredible experience. It was my first nursing conference and the first time I presented this research. When I began the literature review last fall, I never imagined myself presenting it in front of individuals. As a research fellow, it was wonderful seeing my hard work come to fruition. The best part of the conference was connecting to nurses that were interested in and impacted by my work. I spoke to many oncology nurses who kept in touch with former patients. These nurses were interested in seeing if what I learned about frailty in older cancer survivors was similar to their knowledge.

The Sigma Conference warmly welcomed undergraduate nursing students. Everyone I met was eager to learn about my research presentation. As I continue my work as an undergraduate research fellow, I will always remember connecting with the oncology nurses that found great value in my research endeavors.

– Kathryn Free


Elizabeth Byrne ’17 discusses her research poster with STTI President Cathy Catrambone

I had the opportunity to present my research project entitled “The Technological Age: Parent Knowledge and Use of Social Media Apps.” In this project, which will also be the subject of my senior thesis, I will be analyzing parents’ knowledge and use of social media and how that affects their knowledge and perceptions of cyberbullying. I decided on this topic because of my work as an undergraduate research fellow and my years of working at an elementary school. Both of these settings prompted me to look deeper into the connection between parents’ use of social media and their knowledge of cyberbullying. The research data will be obtained via an electronic survey. Presenting this information at the conference helped me focus my research. I received feedback from other presenters and conference attendees that will aid in improving my survey, such as possible questions to include, the potentially wide range of parental age, and the limitation associated with an electronic survey because it will require basic technological skills.

In addition to further developing my own research, the conference allowed me to learn about evidenced-based research in many areas of nursing, including stethoscope hygiene, improving nursing collaboration, and postpartum depression rates in mothers in two different age groups. The variety of the topics was by far my favorite aspect of the conference. I felt like each poster was interesting and pertinent to my nursing education. By attending this conference, I feel as though I will be a better nurse as well as a better researcher. Additionally, I was also able to discuss graduate school with many of the attendees, which gave me a better sense of what I want to pursue after graduation this May. The majority of the attendees and presenters were full time nurses who had received masters or doctoral degrees; this made me acutely aware of what a great honor and privilege it is to be one of a limited number of undergraduates presenting at the conference.

– Elizabeth Byrne

The students and mentors are grateful for the funding from the Coca-Cola and Price Family Foundations that made this experience possible.


A Year in the Life of a New Graduate Nurse

October 3, 2016

By Yvonne Shih ‘15

Transitioning from a student nurse to a Registered Nurse is one daunting task. You are constantly learning about your patient population and yourself. As I reflect back on my first year as a Registered Nurse at UCLA Health, I can see how my education at Boston College has given me the tools to be a nurse in the real world.

September 2015: I feel like a freshman in college again. I am so excited to start my first day of orientation at UCLA Health. It is time to meet new people and make new friends.

October 2015: Sleep? Who needs sleep. I have to sign up to work the day, night, weekend, and holiday shifts. Basically, when you are new, you do it all. On top of everything, I have to figure out how to adjust my sleeping schedule back and forth.


Kelly DiStefano ’15 (left) and KILN alumna Yvonne Shih ’15 (right) celebrate one year as RNs at UCLA Health

November 2015: Can I just feel competent already? Nursing in theory is extremely different from nursing in practice, because you have to care for four to five acute patients who all need you at the same time. However, nursing theory is necessary, because it builds the foundation behind why nurses do what we do. Every preceptor does things differently, so I will try my best to learn all the different tricks here and there.

December 2015: Training wheels are off. I am officially on my own. How terrifying! However, I am grateful to have floor nurses and charge nurses who are willing to help me. Whenever in doubt, I speak up and ask questions. I hate that I still stay overtime to chart sometimes (patients come first)! Sometimes I wish I could just be in two places (or even three places) at once. I still find it hard to prioritize and be efficient as other nurses.

January 2016: Rapid response after rapid response. These moments are powerful reminders to treasure every breath we breathe.

February 2016: I thought I never had to do a research project again. The nurse residency program wants all the new graduate nurses to complete an evidence-based practice project in our respective unit. Our unit already tried many interventions to decrease the number of falls. What else can I and the other new graduate nurse do?

March 2016: Applying something I learned from school. During my nursing clinical at MGH, the nursing unit had a patient education television channel, which made it easy for nurses to teach their patients. Maybe I and the other new graduate nurse can make a video that would provide nurses with another modality to educate patients. The goal will be to create a welcome video with an emphasis on fall prevention. Now, how do we get nursing administration and management on board?

April-June 2016: You know you get it when you can teach it. I feel more comfortable running around the unit by myself. Occasionally, nursing students follow me around and ask me questions. By explaining to students why or how I do things, it is helping me understand how I prioritize my patients’ care.

July 2016: Following Florence Nightingale’s example. It is time to implement our video and get feedback from patients. We need data to support our practice. However, I did not anticipate how hard it would be to implement change in a unit.

August 2016: Remember to use your PTO. Paid time off gives me an opportunity to have some R&R. I do not want to feel burnt out already. I just started this profession!

September 2016: Has it been a year already? We are presenting our project alongside other new grads. It is good to see some familiar faces. Surprisingly, I do not feel nervous (for once in my life) and I really have KILN to thank for that. Thank you for the supportive faculty mentors who helped me complete an Advance Study Grant (ASG) project and the necessary funding to attend the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) and Eastern Nursing Research Society (ENRS) conferences. All these experiences made today’s poster presentation feel like a well-rehearsed dance routine.

Undergraduate KILN Scholar Presents Research at National Conference

September 13, 2016

By Sonia (Chiamaka) Okorie ’17


Chiamaka Okorie ’17 and Dr. Allyssa Harris with their research presentation

In August 2016, I had the opportunity to present at the National Black Nurses Association’s (NBNA) 45th Annual Institute and Conference in Memphis, TN. My mentor, Dr. Allyssa Harris, and I discussed her research, “Father 2 Son: African American Father-Son Sexual Communication.” We shared literature on sexual risk behavior among African American males, highlighted the importance of parent-child communication, and suggested ways to facilitate such conversations in families. I have been very interested in working with the African-American population and extending my nursing career into the public health field, so I was fascinated by the study. I was also inspired by the attendees who enjoyed hearing about the subject and followed up with thoughtful questions about sociocultural factors.

I was amazed by the breadth of topics at the conference. At the Health Policy Institute, I learned about the implications of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act. In the HIV/AIDS workshop, I learned about the history of HIV and “Black Mistrust of the Healthcare System.” At the Under Forty Forum, I enjoyed meeting fellow young professionals and the heartfelt story of Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, a nurse and Deputy Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. I learned so much about African American history and nuances between populations that I had never thought of. I left each workshop wishing it was longer and that I could delve even further into each topic. My experience was even more positive because I felt very welcomed and supported by the older nurses. When they realized I was a student, many of them took the time to advise me, introduce me to someone they thought would be helpful, and extend their contact information. After I presented during the workshop, they commended me and encouraged me to keep pursing such opportunities.


Chiamaka Okorie ’17, KILN alumna Jennifer Etienne ’12, and Dr. Allyssa Harris at the NBNA conference in Memphis, TN

The NBNA Conference fueled my interest in research and my certainty about focusing on the intersection between minority populations and public health nursing. I encourage all KILN members to use conferences as a chance to be exposed to a range of topics, make professional connections, and even present! One attendee said something that remains with me—“it is our responsibility as nurses to know where our patients come from and where they return to.” I am grateful for KILN and this opportunity because the more I learn about the systems that affect my future patients, the more confident I feel about caring and advocating for them.


Attending the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Conference

July 12, 2016

By Rachel Lehouillier

Rachel Lehouiillier COnference Photon

2016 American Association of Nurse Practitioners Conference in San Antonio, TX

I attended the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) national conference from June 22- 25, 2016 in San Antonio, TX. As a nurse practitioner student entering my final year of the masters program, it was an unbelievable experience. I would not have been able to attend this conference if it weren’t for the Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Nursing (KILN) program; and I am so grateful to the program for this opportunity.

The theme of the conference was “Nurse Practioners (NPs) on a Patient Centered Mission.” The conference most definitely fulfilled the hopes of educating NPs on how to provide more patient centered care.  Most of the sessions that I attended had to do with specific hot-button issues that have been occurring in primary care practices from around the US. For example, one of the sessions that truly opened my eyes was on how to screen for and address adverse childhood experiences among adult patients, how to detect human trafficking in the clinic, and how to recognize violence. This was especially astonishing to me because many of these populations will be present in primary care clinics, in which NPs will have the opportunity to help and make a difference. In a fifteen-minute appointment, it may be difficult to address an adult’s adverse childhood experiences and all other medical concerns. However, I am now aware that there are several tips and quick questions I could utilize. NPs can ask patients to gauge whether or not they need further counseling. In addition, each educational session offered evidence based strategies, screening tools, and online resources that NPs can use in their own practices. There was also an unlimited amount of opportunities to network with employers and NPs from all over the nation. These are just examples of the tremendous amount of information I was fortunate enough to learn by participating in this conference.

This conference validated the fact that NPs really never stop learning. I left the conference feeling anxious for my clinical to start this upcoming fall because I am very excited to be finally working in primary care clinics. I feel empowered because primary care NPs really do have the power to help change patient’s lives. NPs have the freedom to shape their assessments and practices to meet the needs of the populations they work with to provide patient centered care.

The Fourth Annual KILN Awards and Recognition Celebration

June 22, 2016

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

May 3rd, 2016 marked the Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Nursing Program fourth Annual Awards and Recognition Celebration. Scholars and mentors were recognized for their accomplishments, leadership and enthusiastic participation in KILN. Information about award winners is available online (new window).

KILN scholar Laura Mata López’16 and KILN mentor Dr. Viola Benavente enlightened the audience with their words. Laura, a participant in KILN since 2012 who graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing this past May, talked about her participation in KILN and leadership experiences. Dr. Viola Benavente focused on the importance of cultural awareness in mentorship and offered words of encouragement to mentors and scholars. She has been an asset to the KILN program since 2012 and an outstanding leader and mentor to KILN scholars. Both speakers reflected on their positive impressions of the program and expressed their gratitude.

Cathy Read and Debra Pino Betancourt presented the scholar and mentor awards. The 2015-2016 KILN leadership council members, Hana Chung’17, Abiola Lawal’17, and Sonia Chiamaka Okorie’17, conveyed that the council has been a great opportunity to combine their love for nursing with their desire to become future nurse leaders. They also introduced the new council members, Helen Au ‘18, Martina DeSimone ’18, Kathryn Davie ’19, and Mariaelena Montijo ’19. Cathy Read concluded the event by thanking everyone for their attendance and acknowledging all graduating students.


Updates from Chenille Morrison, BS, RN, CSON ‘14

June 21, 2016
Chenille Morrison

Chenille Morrison at work in the emergency department at Yale New Haven Hospital, June 2016

The transition from student to professional is unique, and one that must be experienced to fully understand. Patients and families look to you as the go-to person; you are the extra 15 minutes it will take to explain what the doctor explained in 2 minutes, and patients are still trying to figure out what the doctor actually meant. You grow so much your first year as an RN, and begin to realize how much you actually know, even when you feel like you know nothing.

Starting in a Level I Trauma Emergency Department as a new graduate was daunting. I always said I would never work in an ER, but new grad jobs can be hard to find. I moved away from home (again) to get hospital experience. You may have to do the same.

Working in an ER, I had to become independent very quickly with top-notch assessment skills. In the blink of an eye, my patient’s condition can worsen, and I must know how to respond, even if it means saying, “I don’t know what to do but I need help now.” If I had any advice for new grads, it would be:

  1. First and foremost, take care of yourself. Your job is second to your happiness and your health. Be intentional about the relationships you form with people. Hold your friends and family close. You will need them when things get tough.
  2. If you don’t love it, leave it. There are so many directions you can take with your nursing career. Being unhappy in your job will show in your work and how you treat your patients. They deserve the best and so do you.
  3. Advocate for yourself at all times.
  4. Treat everyone you meet with the same level of respect. The janitor is just as important as the CEO. Learn peoples’ names and get to know them over time. Some of the people with the most organizational knowledge aren’t always in your direct circle.

I remain grateful for the leadership and networking opportunities provided through KILN-they gave me the skills and confidence I need every day in a challenging job.