by Kathryn Free
On November 17, 2015, the William F. Connell School of Nursing hosted a casual luncheon with Dr. Margaret Grey, an influential and inspiring nurse researcher who was this year’s fall Pinnacle speaker. Dr. Grey’s groundbreaking research has influenced health providers’ understanding of how to best enable patients to successfully manage type 1 diabetes. After learning about Dr. Grey’s campus visit earlier in the year, I was very eager to meet her—not only because I worked as a camp nurse for girls with type 1 diabetes, but also because we grew up in the same hometown, Easton, PA. We reminisced about growing up in Easton and attending Easton High School’s annual Thanksgiving football game.
When asked to describe her career trajectory, Dr. Grey paused, prefacing her narrative with, “I did not dream of becoming a dean,” referring to her ten year career as the Dean of Yale School of Nursing. As an undergraduate, Dr. Grey initially wanted to become an ICU nurse after working as a nursing assistant during school. However, this all changed after she fell in love with her pediatric clinical. After graduating and working in a NICU, her inquisitive and investigative nature flourished. Dr. Grey’s interest in the obstacles and struggles premature babies face later in life kick-started her career in nursing research. Dr. Grey’s passion has always been in integrating research with the art of nursing to change clinical practice.
After the insightful discussion, I personally took three pieces of advice to heart:
- Be open to new endeavors and fully embrace opportunities presented. As a nursing student, who does not have an inkling of what she wants to do after graduation, it was helpful listening to Dr. Grey’s career trajectory. When meeting someone as successful as Dr. Grey, it is easy to assume that her career path was smooth and figured out from the start. However, I quickly learned that this was the farthest from the truth. Dr. Grey even stated that it is absurd for new grads to know what they want to do. New grads may think they know what they want, but their interests will most likely evolve. For instance, Dr. Grey was a tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania before working at the Yale School of Nursing. Dr. Grey shared that she thought she would be a professor at Penn until she retired. However, the opportunity at Yale was great and Dr. Grey was open to a new experience. As she recently stepped down from deanship, Dr. Grey’s career continues to evolve as she remains open to new endeavors.
- New graduates do not need to work on a medical-surgical floor for two years in order to be successful. This was very different advice than what I have been hearing from other nurses. Many nurses have recommended working on a med-surg floor after graduation to learn the fundamentals of nursing care. Dr. Grey shared that if you are passionate about fields like pediatrics, psych, or maternity, two years on a surgical floor is not necessary. While I think that it may helpful to “get your foot in the door”, since many urban hospitals will not hire a new grad in these specialties, it is a relief to know that it is not necessary.
- Strong interdisciplinary relationships and a team-based approach to patient care are necessary to provide the best care. One of the most important things I have learned this year is to know and embrace your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and consult the “experts.” Having strong relationships with the provider and other members of health care team such as social workers, nutritionist, endocrinologists, or psychiatrists is key!
It was a pleasure meeting Dr. Grey at the luncheon. The informal atmosphere allowed discussions to flourish naturally and conversations to be filled with insight and humor.
by Chiamaka Okorie
On October 24th, 2015, I spoke at the International Conference on Child Rights and Sight at Yale University and shared the results of my incredible opportunity to conduct research in Ghana. The conference raises awareness of children’s rights and blindness prevention. It was hosted by Distressed Children’s International, a non-profit child’s right’s organization I volunteered with over the summer. This was a great opportunity; I connected with other students and networked with attendees who offered mentorship. I was also able to learn even more about global health from speakers like Gopal Mitra, a Program Specialist in the UNICEF’s Children with Disabilities section. It was only halfway through his moving speech about advocacy for people with disabilities when I realized he, too, had a disability – he was blind. I was touched to have heard stories like his, which drive passionate people to create initiatives that combat health care challenges all over the world.
My research, “Perceived Susceptibility to Malaria: An Evaluation of Bed Net Usage of Ghanaian Mothers and Children Under Five”, took place over the summer alongside my volunteer work in Humjibre, Ghana with the Ghana Health and Education Initiative (GHEI). I was sponsored by BC’s African and African Diaspora Department’s Amanda V Houston Travel Fellowship. I knew that I wanted to focus on women and children, and explore a topic significant to the community I visited. I decided to investigate an interesting fact: in the villages of Humjibre, Kojina, and Soroano, the usage rate of insecticide-treated bed nets is greater among pregnant women than among children under five years old. I had two aims for my research: to learn about the perinatal education on malaria available to mothers and to determine whether increased attendance at antenatal care was correlated with increased likelihood that a mother and child would use an insecticide-treated bed net.
My presentation highlighted three facts. First, over 90% of women sought antenatal care at least 4 times – the standard set by the World Health organization and over 50% of them were likely to seek care in local clinics. Second, these women were at least 90% likely to receive anti-malarial medication during antenatal care visits. Third, GHEI’s community-based interventions, such as in-home flip-chart education, successfully led to high bed net usage rates: 77.1 % of pregnant women and 68.1% of children under five years old used insecticide treated nets, compared to 63.3% and 53.8% the previous year, respectively. The data demonstrates that the most attended source of antenatal care are local clinics, where women take advantage of the resources available and receive medication to protect them from malaria. It also demonstrates that the in-home support provided by GHEI led to increased net usage over among both mothers and children. I did not find significant data correlating antenatal care and use of insecticide treated nets, however I did notice how independently GHEI and the clinics worked. If both organizations are treating the same disease in the same community, I wondered why they did not work more closely together. I concluded with not an answer, but a different hypothesis: if non-governmental organizations such as GHEI partnered more closely with health centers like local clinics, they could create a system that supports mothers both in the clinical environment (through extensive perinatal education) and in the home (by providing nets and encouraging usage).
The opportunity for me to travel to Ghana has been beyond invaluable for me. I experienced grassroots interventions alongside GHEI, explored my passion for research, and connected this to the maternal and child health work I hope to do as a nurse. I was emboldened by the realization that as a nurse I can do both, the professional delivering of one-on-one patient education and the advocacy for systematic change. I know that this unique duality will be a great asset as I continue my career in global health. I have been so encouraged and mentored by the faculty of the KILN program along every step of the way. I urge everyone interested in research to begin reflecting on what field you are interested in, reach out to the faculty around you, and strive to immerse yourself as you learn!
On September 23, 2015, KILN scholars and mentors gathered to kick off the 2015-2016 academic year. This networking event, organized by KILN Leadership Council members Hana Chung (’17), Chiamaka Okorie (’17), and Abiola Lawal (’17), allowed returning students and mentors to share their wisdom with new KILN participants in a student-led, roundtable format.
KILN director Cathy Read announced new funding from the Coca-Cola Foundation, which will provide student stipends, funds for travel to professional conferences, and support for other leadership development activities in 2015-2016. The Price Family Foundation, a generous contributor since September 2013, also renewed their commitment; this ensures the sustainability of the KILN program well into the future.
by Cindy Lee, Hana Chung, Suvin Song, Kelly Powers
This past June, fifteen Boston College students, seven of whom are KILN scholars, traveled to Lausanne, Switzerland to participate in a global health class titled, “International Perspective on Nursing Care: One Aim, Multiple Approaches.” We met students and professors from Switzerland, Chile, India, China, and Singapore. They shared their knowledge of health care systems and cultural practices from their respective countries through lectures and group discussions. In addition, we received four practical training days in a Swiss hospital or clinic. Even though some of us faced a language barrier, we were able to witness the interactions between the nurses and patients, which included the same patient-centered care used in the United States. We recognized the differences in the Swiss healthcare system by shadowing student nurses and observing other healthcare providers on the cardiac, traumatology, geriatric, psychiatric, pediatric, orthopedic, and internal medicine floors.
In addition, we had the chance to hear Sister Callista Roy speak about The Roy Adaptation Model, and the following day, we attended a symposium that displayed various nursing topics from professors around the world. On the last day, we presented our assigned topics, which included nursing and immigration, nursing ethics, health promotion and prevention, palliative care, complementary and alternative medicine, and end of life in the pediatric context. This gave us a chance to reflect on the cultural differences among the various countries. As a result, our experience helped us to apply our newly acquired knowledge to our nursing practice in the United States.
Aside from our involvement in the classroom, we had the opportunity to explore Switzerland. The group trips included a tour of the Callier Chocolate Factory and the neighboring town of Gruyere. We also enjoyed a traditional Swiss meal after hiking Le Grammont of the Swiss Alps. Other excursions included a day in Geneva to visit the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, and the United Nations Office. During the free weekends, several students travelled to Interlaken, Bern, Zurich, Evian, and even Paris. Through these trips, we were able to make the most of our experience in Switzerland.
The Switzerland trip contributed to our personal, professional, and leadership development. As leaders in the KILN community, we strive to be independent, knowledgeable, accepting, and courageous. By overcoming language barriers, budgeting our finances, and adapting to a new environment, we continued to develop these characteristics. The different cultural perspectives helped broaden our attitudes, values, and beliefs. The cultural competency we gained from this trip can be applied in nursing care and in our everyday lives. This experience abroad exceeded our expectations and promoted growth in our educational and personal development. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we highly recommend this course to all nursing students looking for a challenging, rewarding, and memorable summer.
The transition from summer into fall has always been one of my favorite times of year- although summer is full of fun, looking forward to a new year of school was always exciting and refreshing. This is the second September in my life that I will not be going back to school since I started working at Boston Children’s Hospital as a staff nurse on 7 North- the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I am a year and a half out of college and it’s one of the biggest transition periods in my life but definitely not as scary as I thought it would be. Of course there are some days that I wish I could go back to the security of life living on a college campus-especially one as enriching and energetic as Boston College. But, I am lucky to say I have found true passion and purpose in being a NICU nurse. I learn so many new things during every work shift and have done so at a much faster pace in 9 months than I did through 4 years of nursing school. I cherished and loved every moment as a BC nursing student, but learning on the job is a completely different experience.
Being an independent practicing medical professional is a special thing. I work in a really fast paced, complex, intensive care unit where our babies have a variety of diagnoses. On top of caring for critically ill infants, their families require our support in some of the most trying times in their life. Since I started working, I have felt the triumph of discharging a baby home after spending the first 4 months of his life at Children’s undergoing multiple surgeries to repair the gap in his esophagus due to esophageal atresia. Then, a few days later I came in to work to find that the baby I took care of 2 nights ago died after a painful, long stay struggling with chronic lung disease. When I come home from work and my roommates ask me- “how was your day?”, it is really difficult to put into words what I experience caring for these babies. They are the most resilient people I have ever encountered, despite being so small and enduring so much. In the healthcare world, our day to day is getting people through their worst nightmares. It takes a person with a unique set of skills to thrive in this environment.
My BC undergraduate nursing experience was an amazing place to foster skills and learn the theory of nursing. In addition, my time was enriched tremendously through KILN. I think of my mentor-Kate Gregory- regularly. During our monthly lunches and meetings at her research lab at the Brigham and Women’s NICU, she gave me pieces of advice to shape my leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills. These are invaluable as a developing nurse. I am also lucky to have coworkers who are extremely effective role models. I could not imagine being trained more thoroughly than my preceptors, Julie, Xochi, and Lyndsay, did. One of the main factors of my positive outlook as a new graduate nurse is having encouraging senior nurses. You need direction from senior staff to set a solid foundation for your career; they are priceless sources of knowledge and experience. One big piece of advice is to constantly observe their practice and never hesitate to ask a question. I feel I am in a place that nurtures and encourages this learning and that has made all the difference. When choosing your first job, be sure to keep this is mind.
So if you have followed your heart and it has led you to choose nursing as your career, you are a very lucky person in my opinion. Continue to do so as you navigate your transition from college to professional life. Remember when taking care of your patients that showing them compassion and excellent care is your top priority. However, you must give an equal amount of love and nurturing to yourself otherwise you will not be able to maintain that component of empathy, which is so vital to being a nurse. One way to nurture your wellbeing is to have a good support system. It is so important to feel celebrated for what you do- being a nurse is hard work. Whether it be by your friends, significant other, parents, or mentors; try to be around people who make you feel positive and cared for at work and at home. Lastly, enjoy every minute. I know everyone says it, but the time flies by. Once you’ve been working in the field for a few years, you will not get to experience moments through the eyes of a brand new nurse. So far, I can say whole heartedly that I love my career and becoming a nurse is one of the best decisions I made in my life! I hope the same for you and wish you the best of luck.
By CSON KILN and Chiamaka Okorie
KILN scholar Sonia Chiamaka Okorie (CSON ’17) was awarded the competitive Amanda V. Houston Traveling Fellowship from Boston College for the summer of 2015. Amanda V. Houston was the director of the African and African Diaspora Studies Program at Boston College from 1981-1993. As an educator, community leader, and mentor, she wanted to provide an outstanding candidate of African descent with an opportunity to develop leadership skills through international travel and research.
Chiamaka traveled to Africa in June to volunteer with the Ghana Health and Education Initiative (GHEI), a non-governmental organization based in the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai District of Ghana. Her project, “Perceived Susceptibility to Malaria: An Evaluation of Bed Net Usage of Ghanaian Mothers and Children under Five,” will be completed with data she and other community health workers compiled during her visit; more details can be found on the GHEI blog. Chiamaka describes her experience as follows:
“No classroom could have conveyed the heart and strength of GHEI. GHEI is a grassroots organization that runs several health and education initiatives in Humjibre, Kojina, and Soroano. I volunteered specifically with GHEI’s Malaria Prevention program, which partners volunteers with local community health workers to conduct comprehensive surveys. Each ‘household’, ‘woman’, and ‘child’ survey helped GHEI to collect health indicators, gauge the success of their past interventions, and identify where they could create new interventions.
I found that the most special part of GHEI was the partnership both within the organization and between the organization and community. The survey itself was a great example of this. It was translated from English to Twi by community health coordinators, and then administered by trained community health workers (a mix of students, teachers, and local supporters) who visited households and expertly navigated in English, Twi, and the dialect Sefwi. We, volunteers, were responsible for coordinating the supplies and compiling the information to form the database. In four days we completed our goal of surveying half of the Humjimbre community and the entire Kojina and Soroano communities!
Within the volunteer group I took on the role of Field Coordinator, keeping track of how many surveys were submitted, completed, or needed to be revisited. We were posted at a central site in each community, surrounded by curious children and chickens, and dashing back and forth between correcting surveys, weighing frightened babies and measuring moms. I smiled with each “meda ase!” (thank you!) and felt welcomed as strangers asked “ete sen?” (how are you?).
I was able to connect much of my volunteer work with my independent research project. The survey asked detailed questions about malaria, family planning, pre-natal and post-natal care. We had the opportunity to tour the Bibiani Government Hospital and meet the wonderful doctors and nurses. Our trip also coincided with a hospital outreach baby weighing session, where I talked to nurses in more detail about the post-natal programs offered and vaccines provided. The GHEI health coordinators helped me answer my remaining curious or health-related questions. The complexities of public health became even clearer to me. As I have learned in nursing, each intervention must be carefully and individually woven. I intended to only focus on mothers, babies, and malaria, but watched the way other factors such as location, financial situation, and gender shaped each person. It was a humbling opportunity to assess data quantitatively and see, in front of me, the qualitative picture.
When we weren’t surveying, we learned Twi, had drumming and cooking lessons, and made visits to our local markets andcocoa farms. I conversed over my favorite meal of red red (beans and sweet fried plantain), learned the names of the kids that ventured to our doorstep, and got to know my fellow volunteers and the GHEI coordinators. During our last two days, we visited the massive Keteja market, Kakum National Park (where I bravely conquered the 100 ft high canopy walk), and Cape Coast (where slaves were held before they were sent abroad). As a Nigerian immigrant, I felt at home in Ghana and was continually amazed by its beauty.
When I found GHEI, I was searching for an opportunity to truly contribute to the community and I served, and return with renewed understanding and appreciation. With every day I spent in Ghana, I gained just that. I am sincerely grateful to GHEI, KILN, and the Amanda V. Houston Fellowship for my incredible experience!”
The Boston College faculty and staff are proud of the work that Chiamaka has begun and we look forward to hearing more about this and other global health projects throughout her career.
2015 CSON graduate and KILN scholar Colleen McGauley did a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France with two CSON seniors this past May. For more information on the pilgrimage and Colleen’s experience please read the following article.