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KILN Scholars Travel to Switzerland to Study Global Health

October 2, 2015

by Cindy Lee, Hana Chung, Suvin Song, Kelly Powers

Students and faculty from the U.S., Switzerland, Chile, Singapore, China, and India meet at the summer university in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Students and faculty from the U.S., Switzerland, Chile, Singapore, China, and India meet at the summer university in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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.

Students from Boston College visiting the Callier Chocolate Factory.

Students from Boston College visiting the Callier Chocolate Factory.

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.

Advice and Updates from Shripriya Sahay, CSON ’14 and KILN Alumna

September 11, 2015

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.

Chiamaka Okorie Receives the Amanda V. Houston Fellowship to Fund Her Research in Ghana

July 15, 2015

By CSON KILN and Chiamaka Okorie

Malaria Prevention Volunteers

Malaria Prevention Volunteers

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.


Chiamaka with one of the nurses at the Bibiani Government Hospital

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.

Market day in Bekwai

Market day in Bekwai

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.

KILN Scholar Participates in Pilgrimage to Lourdes

July 7, 2015

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.

KILN scholars contribute to knowledge development through research

July 7, 2015

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Knowledge development through research is essential to the achievement of nursing’s “commitment to the promotion of health and healthy lifestyles, the advancement of quality and excellence in health care, and the critical importance of basing professional nursing practice on research” (AACN, 2006). The Connell School of Nursing strives to prepare students to evaluate, use, and generate new knowledge for nursing practice, and KILN scholars have enjoyed many successes through active participation in research.

On April 29, 2015, seven KILN scholars presented posters describing the work of their research teams at the Alpha Chi Research Day. Alpha Chi is the Boston College Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society for nursing The poster titles and teams members are listed below, with KILN scholars’ names in bold:

  • Yvonne Shih (’15), Colleen McGauley (’15), Heather Johnston, and Professor Lichuan Ye, “Early Bird or Night Owl: College Student’s Sleep Patterns.” This poster won first prize from Alpha Chi.
  • Tammy Leung (‘15), Meghan Foley, Nancy Van Devanter and Professor Carina Katigbak, “Knowledge, Beliefs, and Behaviors Related to Alternative Tobacco Use Among Nursing Students in an Urban U. S. University Setting.”
  • Lourdes Talavera (’16), Taylor Fischer (’15), and Professor Tam Nguyen, “Do Nurse Residency Programs Improve Job Satisfaction, Retention Rates and Clinical Competency for New Graduate BSN Nurses?”
  • Taylor Fischer (’15), Lourdes Talavera (’16), and Professor Tam Nguyen, “Prevalence Rates of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in Asian American and Pacific Islanders.”
  • Alexandra Paz (’15), Ellery Spencer, and Professor Viola Benavente, “A Literature Review Exploring Heart Health Interventions for Latinas.”
  • Savita Sukha (’15), Grace Kalnins, Allison Gilmer, Gulcan Bakan and Professors Callista Roy and Tam Nguyen, “Developing of Coping and Adaptation Processing Scale (CAPS).”
  • Savita Sukha (’15), Allison Gilmer, Grace Kalnins, and Professors Callista Roy and Stewart Bond, “Middle-Range Symptom Management Theory Development for Guiding Practice.”

KILN scholars also traveled to national conferences to present their research. In April, Colleen McGauley attended the Eastern Nursing Research Society Conference in Washington, DC, where her poster on the sleep habits of college students with fellow KILN scholar Yvonne Shih and research mentor Professor Lichuan Ye won third place in the student poster contest. Colleen reflected on her experience at this conference, where she heard nurse researchers “speak about the growing changes in healthcare and the significant role nurses have as researchers and role models in the healthcare field” and network with nurse leaders about career plans and ways to use research as a new graduate. Colleen described the event as “a great culmination to the hard work and dedication I have put into research over the last three years” and thanked the KILN program for the opportunities to see the many roles nurses can have in management, research, and at the bedside.

In March, Lourdes Talavera and Taylor Fischer presented posters with research mentor Dr. Tam Nguyen at the Asian American Pacific Islander Nurses Association (AAPINA) twelfth annual conference in Las Vegas, NV. This was a great opportunity for the students to network with diverse nurse leaders from all over the country and to showcase the research endeavors at Boston College.

This summer, undergraduate KILN scholar Sonia Chiamaka Okorie (’17) will complete an independent research project as part of her volunteer work with the Ghana Health and Education Initiative (GHEI), a non-governmental organization based in the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai District of Ghana. Chiamaka was awarded the competitive Amanda V. Houston Travel Fellowship from Boston College to fund her project, “Perceived Susceptibility to Malaria: An Evaluation of Bed Net Usage of Ghanaian Mothers and Children under Five. We look forward to hearing about Chiamaka’s research next fall.

International Conference of Eating Disorders

June 22, 2015

This year I attended my third consecutive International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED). Although many aspects of the conference are the same from year to year, the experience has changed for me over time as I have been able to gain new insights and knowledge every time I go. This year, I felt like a seasoned conference attendee… not only because the event was held in my home-base, Boston, but also because I was familiar with the process and now know many of the people who regularly attend. I think the two major draws of attending conferences are the discovery and dissemination of knowledge as well as the networking aspect.

My favorite presentation was about utilizing short-term group family treatment for patients with anorexia nervosa. This particular therapy consisted of a few weeks of intense treatment that included education, multidisciplinary therapy, meal coaching, individual counseling and continued care planning. Family therapy has been the gold standard of care for patients with eating disorders, especially in adolescent and young adults, for a number of years. However, there is less research about the use of group therapy, let alone group family therapy. From my experience working on a number of eating disorder units, patients have mixed thoughts about group treatment. For some patients, being in a group setting can be a trigger to cause them to compare themselves harshly against others. On the other hand, a number of patients cherish group therapy and end up finding support from other members. In my opinion, parents often find groups extremely helpful because they are able to relate to others going through similar experiences. From the perspective of a nurse and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, group family therapy allows many people to receive treatment simultaneously and allows the members to learn from and help each other. The researchers from the University of California Eating Disorder Center found promising results in a relatively short period of time by using this form of group family therapy. Although more research is needed, so far it seems this is an effective version of evidenced based family therapy that can be useful in the clinical setting.

Another benefit of attending this conference was being able to network with other people in my field. I caught up with my friends from Africa, Australia and all over the United States, including Florida and California. Since I graduated this year, the ICED conference was also an opportunity to meet people from facilities that I could potentially work at. During the “exhibition” portion of the conference, sponsors including a number of eating disorder centers from around the world, set up booths with information about their sites. I met with individuals from Walden Behavioral Care, Monte Nido and Newton Wellesley Eating Disorder Center. I have since been in touch with two of these facilities about potential job opportunities! I think that being face to face with these organizations gave me the upper hand in finding a job. For example, I was able to mention in my cover letters that I spoke with the owners and CEO’s of the facilities I applied to. I’m excited to see where these opportunities lead and definitely think that attending this conference is helping me in this search.

KILN Celebrates Its Successes in 2014-2015

May 29, 2015

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The KILN scholars and mentors celebrated the end of the academic year with the third annual awards and recognition celebration on April 29, 2015. Scholars and mentors got together one more time to connect with each other and recognize many accomplishments. Several scholars and mentors received special awards; read more about the award winners.

Taylor Fischer, Julie Dunne and Patience Marks, graduating KILN scholars, spoke about their leadership experiences at Boston College. Taylor has been a participant in KILN since 2011, and graduated with her BS in nursing this May. She served as an undergraduate research fellow for two years and was the co- president of Project Sunshine and a member of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Julie was a KILN scholar in 2012 and returned to the program this year.  She received her MS in May and will sit for the certification exam as a Psych-Mental health advanced practice nurse while she continues to fulfill the requirements for the PhD. Patience, who was the recipient of the KILN Key award and the prestigious Martin Luther King scholarship last spring, received her BS in May. She also served as a peer freshmen seminar leader and an undergraduate research fellow. The speakers also expressed their gratitude for the opportunities afforded them by the Price Family Foundation.

Cathy Read and Debra Pino Betancourt presented the student and mentor awards. Cathy Read concluded the event by wishing the best of luck to students as they prepared for finals and to graduates as they enter the workforce or pursue a graduate degree.


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