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Greetings from Stephanie Mui, CSON ’13 and KILN Alumna

March 4, 2015
Stephanie Mui '13 (bottom row: second from left) with colleagues at  Medstar Georgetown University Hospital

Stephanie Mui ’13 (bottom row: second from left) with colleagues at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital

Hi KILN scholars!

I graduated from CSON in 2013 and almost immediately began working as an RN through the Medstar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH)nurse residency program. I work on a medical oncology unit, so I primarily see patients with solid tumor cancers – breast, lung, pancreatic, colorectal, cervical, etc. I care for patients throughout all stages of their disease. While some patients have good prognoses, others are holding on for dear life as they battle metastatic cancers, endure painful radiation, and receive multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Some respond well to the combination of treatments, others face the difficult decision of continuing with aggressive treatment or transitioning into palliative care or hospice. I have the privilege of helping my patients navigate these trying times. I administer chemotherapy, manage debilitating side effects, and advocate for their needs when they often cannot. Though this can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually taxing on all involved, it is incredibly rewarding, and I love what I do.

While I have learned a great deal during my 18 months as an RN, I could not have made it this far alone. Georgetown’s residency program provided additional support and resources to facilitate my first year as a nurse, including skills classes and an oncology fellowship that expanded my knowledge and familiarity with the needs of our patient population. I highly recommend residency programs because they help you build fundamental nursing skills, ultimately establishing a strong foundation to help you succeed in your nursing career. I also enjoyed learning alongside other new graduate nurses; you develop a sense of camaraderie that is irreplaceable during a time of great anxiety, fear, and stress.

Despite how much I have learned, I still look to my fellow nurses, educator, and manager for assistance on a regular basis. They are my most valuable resource. My most important piece of advice for new nurses is to never be afraid to ask questions; your coworkers offer a wealth of knowledge and are always willing to help. Don’t ever feel embarrassed because there is no such thing as a silly question – the patient’s safety is the ultimate priority.

Currently I am precepting students and new graduate nurses on our unit. I was hesitant in the beginning, but you will find that you know much more than you think. It is important to be confident in your abilities, yet you must also be able to identify your areas of weakness and seek help when necessary. The opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with new nurses is humbling and rewarding, and of course so much fun!

I also serve on a hospital-wide wellness committee at MGUH that promotes end-of-life care in patients throughout their disease trajectory. In other words, we advocate for these patients to ensure that they are comfortable whether they have just been diagnosed or have reached a terminal stage in their disease. I never would have imagined myself to develop such an interest in oncology and palliative care. In nursing school, I actually pictured myself to be in pediatrics or obstetrics. I’m fortunate to have found a specialty that I am truly passionate about, and I advise new nurses to keep exploring all avenues until they find their niche. I cannot stress the importance of doing what you love. It will translate into the care you provide, ultimately making you and your patients happy.

KILN Students Network with Nurse Leaders at the New England Regional Black Nurses Association Awards Dinner

February 10, 2015

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Nine students in the “Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Nursing” program enjoyed the opportunity to see inspirational nurse leaders receive Nursing Excellence awards from the New England Regional Black Nurses Association (NERBNA). The banquet, also attended by ten CSON faculty members, was held at the Boston Copley Marriott hotel on February 6, 2015. The keynote speaker, Marcia I. Wells Avery, reflected on her career and shared her story about overcoming obstacles to success. The dinner was preceded by a reception, where students got the opportunity to network with nurse leaders from clinical practice, research, and academia. KILN students Patience Marks and Chiamaka Okorie shared their reflections on the event:

By S. Chiamaka Okorie, CSON ’17,
On February 6th, 2015, I attended the NERBNA Excellence in Nursing Awards. In the keynote speech, Ms. Marcia Wells Avery quoted ballerina Misty Copeland: “You can start late, be unsure, look different, and still succeed.” In the middle of my first year of transferring into Connell School of Nursing and still unsure about how I can accomplish my dreams, it was amazing to hear these words. I registered to attend this event in hopes of advice but I received more inspiration than I hoped for.

Each award recipient shared their story, obstacles, and faith and thanked families and teams for supporting them along the way. While some had recently begun their nursing journey, others had changed careers late in their life, and some had dedicated their life to nursing. Each nurse reminded me that excellence is a journey and mindset. As a Nigerian-American student, it was also very empowering to witness the honoring of Black nurses and glimpse the wonderful Black nursing community.

I also had the pleasure of sitting amongst Dean Susan Gennaro and Professors William Fehder, Viola Benavente, and Allyssa Harris. As we talked about their families and experience in nursing, I was again reminded of how blessed I feel to be part of the CSON community. I knew that these faculty members want to see the best for their students and help us achieve our own excellence.

I would absolutely recommend this experience to any student or faculty. It is always a gift to hear from nurses who embody excellence, faith, and hard work; it renews our mission as nurses.

By Patience Marks, CSON ‘15
I was beyond grateful for the chance to be present at such an inspirational and motivating event. The most exciting part for me was the keynote speaker, Dr. Marcia I. Wells Avery, and her lessons from the “story of the unlikely ballerina.” Emphasized by Dr. Avery was the idea of achieving beyond the “-ism” and not being dissuaded by bigotry, prejudice, and disbelievers. Being an individual within a triple minority (an immigrant, African-American, and a woman) this idea resonated with me because I am no stranger to the trials and tribulations of society. I’ve sometimes gotten to a point where giving up sometimes seemed more of an option than continuing to fight and push forward. As a developing professional and student nurse, I’ve encountered many situations academically, clinically, and socially that caused me to use the word “can’t,” allowing me to believe that I “couldn’t.” Dr. Avery’s speech touched my heart and allowed me to see the “can” in every impossibility and the “will do” in every possibility, which I will forever appreciate and remember. As she stated in the end, like the story of the unlikely ballerina, you can always “start late, look different, be uncertain, and still succeed.” I plan to take this inspiration with me in my path as a nurse and beyond.

Advice and Updates from Sania Beckford, CSON’11 and KILN Alumna

February 3, 2015

I am a proud graduate of Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing class of 2011. During my undergraduate career, I participated in the KILN program, wherein I gained valuable skills that transformed me into the confident and exceptional leader I am today. Subsequently, I obtained my license as a registered nurse in Connecticut. The year 2015 will mark my third anniversary as an employee at Bridgeport Hospital where I am a Professional Nurse on the cardiology/telemetry unit. Last year was extremely exciting for me because I was invited to attend Bridgeport’s Employee Recognition dinner for leaving a memorable impression on numerous patient clienteles. In addition, my strong advocacy for healing through bundled care initiatives led me to become a council member for the Help Us Support Healing Campaign. Lastly, I was recently nominated and got accepted as a member of the Bridgeport Hospital’s Nursing Shared Governance Quality & Safety Council, which oversees quality and patient safety initiatives consistent with established state, federal and regulatory standards. Regarding future endeavors, my experience at Boston College’s CSON encouraged me to practice excellence through higher education. Thus, I am researching a few programs to obtain a master’s of science in nursing degree.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I received numerous advice about being a new nurse, which I would like to share with all of you, especially those who are about to enter the workforce.

  • After determining what unit you will be working on, gain a thorough understanding of your unit. For example, know where things are located, review polices, and know common meds, labs with ranges, test/procedures, and patient population. This will take time but it will help you to anticipate patients’ needs and avoid possible short-comings.
  • After becoming familiar with your unit, learn to manage your time by staying organized and flexible. Honestly, I still go to work at least 30 minutes early to review my assigned patient list and their plan of care.
  • Develop a written format of recording information. Do not rely on memory because forgetting a task can adversely affect the patient directly or delay their plan of care.
  • Never assume; always ask.
  • Make compassion a habit by establishing trust with your co-workers as well as patients.
  • You will meet numerous patients with differing needs but one commonality: they are human beings trusting you to take care of them during a vulnerable time. Therefore, maintain professionalism by always providing quality patient-centered care, properly addressing your patients, and inquiring about their preferences.
  • Overall, striving to be a good nurse is a common desire but challenge yourself to be a better nurse. How? By remembering to love yourself first. Maintain compliance with credentials (licensure, CE’s credits, competence workshops, etc). Get involved in hospital organizations. Maintain your health. Stay current with healthcare events. Value your relationships (family, friends, etc). The list goes on but stay calm, humble, and have faith.

I would like to end this post with one more advice to current nursing students. Learning should be synonymous to breathing. Absolutely LOVE what you do. Let the lives of others inspire you so you can CONTINUE to love what you do!

My Semester in Ecuador

January 23, 2015
Laura Mata and her friend in the indigenous community of San Clemente, Ecuador

Laura Mata and her friend in the indigenous community of San Clemente, Ecuador

This past semester, I had the opportunity to travel, experience adventures, and learn in Quito, Ecuador. I decided that I wanted to study abroad in Ecuador probably after my first semester at Boston College. My decision was driven by many factors, but the main one was the opportunity to experience nursing from a whole new perspective. Global health and disparities in healthcare are some of my biggest interests, and this experience has truly helped me establish the kind of nurse I want to be in the future, and in the process, I’ve fallen in love with nursing all over again.

The past five months were a rollercoaster ride, to say the least. I never thought that I would have trouble adjusting to the culture, since I grew up in Costa Rica and I still identify with most aspects of my culture. However, when it came to treating patients, I felt completely out of place, although I had the language as an advantage.

I completed my community health clinical at the Subcentro in Tumbaco, which is one of the most underprivileged areas in Quito. The Subcentro is a free clinic, which means that most the patients we received were part of the lower class, and tend to only seek medical help when they really feel they need it. The first weeks of clinical were the hardest. Given that I was the “new gringa” at the clinic, the nurses didn’t fully trust my novice skills, so I spent most of my time observing the way they worked and the patients that came in. Right away, the disparities in healthcare became clear; for example, the indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian people do not enjoy the same level of care as others. The more I people-watched, the more I started to see the problems that this healthcare system faces. I started to notice all the pregnant 12-15 year olds, the high incidence of scoliosis in men who work 14 hour days for very little pay, the 8/10 patients who suffer from hypertension, and the many children who have started to fall behind in their development. My heart broke every time. The concept that all humans don’t get the same access to care is something that I can’t seem to process well in my mind, and something that I don’t think I will ever understand or accept.

Laura Mata at the edge of the world in Baños, Ecuador

Laura Mata at the edge of the world in Baños, Ecuador

Most of my time in Ecuador was spent explaining why I choose nursing. When you tell someone you’re studying to be a nurse there, the follow-up question is always, “Why didn’t you just study medicine?” Nursing here is completely different than the United States. Most nurses obtain 2-year degrees, and very few graduate with a 4-year education. However, at the clinic, there are only two nurses responsible for preparing all the patients, which tend to range from 100-140 every day. For this reason, these nurses have become very task-oriented, and don’t always get to implement many of the things that nurses in the U.S. do. They rarely ever have the time to sit down with patients and educate them about things like hypertension, protected-sex, or nutrition, and these are things that severely affect the Ecuadorian population. I found myself always “defending” the path I choose to take, explaining the differences between medicine and nursing, and trying to make people understand why I love what I do. I think somewhere along the way, I realized how passionate I was about nursing and all the new things I was learning, and was reminded of why I chose this profession.

This past semester taught me many lessons. I learned what it was like to live in an oppressive-almost-dictatorship government, to care for people with very few resources, to try foods (that weren’t very good sometimes) and enjoy them, and most importantly, I remembered why I love being a nurse.

My Study Abroad Experience in Thessaloniki, Greece

January 23, 2015

I am thankful for the opportunity I had to study abroad at the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT) in Greece this fall semester. Studying abroad in Europe was something I have dreamed of since high school. I was lucky to have made this dream come true. Before I arrived in Thessaloniki, Greece, I had certain expectations because I had talked to a few upperclassmen and alumni who had studied abroad at ACT during their junior year. My expectations included getting immersed in the Greek culture, taking non-Nursing courses, making friends from all over the world, and travelling in Europe. Now that the semester is over, I can happily say these expectations have been met.

Overlooking Vergina, Greece

Overlooking Vergina, Greece

As a Korean-American who grew up in New York City, I have been exposed to multiple cultures and interacted with people of different backgrounds. Coming to Greece and traveling in Europe were experiences that have allowed me to widen my knowledge on different cultures even more. It has also encouraged me to reflect on the importance of respecting a language and navigating through cultural communication differences. As an immigrant myself, I understand the difficulties that arise from communication barriers in a foreign country. As a foreigner in Greece and other European countries I visited, I encountered what I had experienced in my early years in the States: learning a new language and communicating to the best of my ability. Even though these experiences made me comfortable to some extent with living in a country  with a different native tongue, I realized that some peers in my program handled it differently than I did.

I witnessed some of my peers being frustrated, in some instances, when the locals did not know English and when there was no English translation next to foreign text. Even though English is becoming a universal language, we cannot expect that everyone will be fluent in it. In a country as diverse as ours, we have many people who learn English as their second language and we must understand people in this situation. This experience reminded me of the significance of culturally sensitive nurses and translations services in U.S. healthcare. When I was in Europe, I was comforted by sympathetic locals who took the time and made the effort to understand and help me. I want to help others like those locals helped me, especially in times of physical and personal discomfort. I hope healthcare professionals including nurses will overcome language and cultural barriers with hearts full of understanding, patience, and care. As Professor Simonelli once stated, we will never be fully culturally competent nurses, but we can still be culturally sensitive and aware. We have so much to learn not only in our nursing courses, but also in our clinical experiences, especially with the diverse population we work with.

Posing with the White Tower in Thessaloniki, Greece

Habin Cho in front of the White Tower in Thessaloniki, Greece

With regards to the coursework I was able to take five non-nursing courses at ACT. This was the only semester I was able to choose courses outside of the nursing curriculum. I took advantage of this and selected courses I would not have taken if I had stayed at Boston College. My courses included Greek language, Greek art history, Greek mythology, philosophy, and psychology. I was worried of falling behind my peers in CSON, but looking back, I can say that I have grown and my perspective has widened after taking these non-nursing courses. The Greek students, in general, were far more laid back than my peers back at Boston College. It took me awhile to get accustomed to a “relaxed” classroom setting, but in this new setting, I was reminded of the importance of education. At Boston College, it was easy for me to become consumed by my grades and not fully enjoy my studies. At ACT, I was reminded that I am at a great institution to learn great things, not only to get great grades. I hope to return to Boston College with this renewed mindset and truly enjoy Nursing instead of getting caught up with my GPA.

A lot of people wonder how nursing students are able to study abroad. It is possible. And I highly recommend it to students in Track B. I personally appreciated a semester off from nursing school. I was able to gain an experience I would not have gained in CSON or at Boston College. This semester allowed me to question my decision to pursue nursing. During this period of questioning, I remembered why I initially chose nursing and I learned why I still want to continue pursuing nursing. A semester away from my home and college in the States brought homesickness, discomfort, and stress, but it also brought me open-mindedness, courage, and opportunities to take advantage of. I am much more determined and motivated to grow as a student leader now than I was before I studied abroad.

Greetings from Anna Diane, CSON ’12 and KILN Alumna

January 5, 2015
Anna Diane at work at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Hospital

Anna Diane working in the liver transplant ICU at UCLA Ronald Reagan Hospital

I currently work at the University of California Los Angeles Ronald Reagan Hospital in the liver transplant intensive care unit (ICU). I have been working here for 1 year and 3 months, after a 3 month orientation. We have 24 beds and take care of patients before, during and after their liver/kidney transplants. Since we are an ICU, we also accept patients from the medical, cardiothoracic and neurological ICUs when space is needed.

A typical patient requires a liver transplant because of cryptogenic or alcoholic cirrhosis, hepatitis, drug abuse, fulminant (suicide attempt), or liver failure from various drugs (for example- birth control, “weight loss” supplements, etc). Many of our patients are continuously bleeding due to loss of clotting factors, have chest tubes, are ventilator dependent, on continuous blood pressure drips (along with a plethora of other drips), sedated, on continuous dialysis machines (which we manage ourselves), arterial lines, PA catheters, etc. Pretty exciting stuff! Liver ICU patients vary; some get extubated the day after surgery and some patients stay with us for many months (we have a patient who has been in the ICU here with us for 508 days now!).

I am so thankful for the opportunities that KILN afforded me- conferences, networking, alumni panel, exposure to the different areas of nursing along with great mentorship and scholarship. These experiences gave me confidence and showed me that nursing is not only a job, but a lifelong career with vast opportunities. Even though I have a year of experience under my belt, I am learning more every single day on how to improve my nursing practice. Being a new grad can be very intimidating but PLEASE do not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how dumb you think they are because remember everyone was once a new grad! No one was born a nurse :)

Also remember to take care of yourself! It is very important to maintain good physical and mental health (you want to do your best to avoid burnout…) If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to email me at annadiane1@gmail.com! Have a great school year :)

My Experience at the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) Conference

November 5, 2014
Sara Fechner, Shirley Smoyak, and faculty mentor Dr. Wolfe

Sara Fechner, Shirley Smoyak, and faculty mentor Dr. Wolfe

On the morning I was supposed to leave for Indianapolis, I woke up both nervous and excited. Like a typical twenty something, as soon as I turned off my alarm I checked the text messages on my phone only to find that my flight had been canceled. This of course, provoked anxiety and a series of web searches only to find that it had been rescheduled. Crisis averted, or so I thought. Unfortunately the mid-October day I had chosen to leave for my trip turned out to overlap with a Nor’easter rain storm. My flight was delayed an hour…then two hours, so I had the option to switch my flight. This switch worked out well – I was then on the same flight as my faculty mentor, Dr. Barbara Wolfe. We had dinner together and decided to wait for our 8:45 pm flight together. Well… our poor luck had not yet run out when our flight was postponed once again to leave at 11:50 pm, with an ETA in Indianapolis around 3:00 am, to then go to the hotel and wake up early  to start at 8:00 am with the Keynote speaker.

First thing Thursday was a bit of a blur given my sleep deprivation. Throughout the day however I was able to connect with Dr. Wolfe again, as well as Dr. Danny Willis, Pam Terreri and BC Ph.D student Karen Jennings; so we had quite the crew representing Boston College! I had the opportunity to see Dr. Willis present his research, which was wonderful and fun to see him present outside of our classroom!

During my few days at APNA, I attended educational sessions, keynote addresses, panel discussions, and the New England Chapter meeting. Most meaningful were the connections I made and people I met. The professors from BC all introduced me to their former colleagues, professors and mentors. This was really inspiring, as I got to see how people can shape one’s career and how  those connections live on for many years.

There was no shortage of impressive individuals to be acquainted with! I had the opportunity to meet other distinguished professionals in psychiatric-mental health such as: Shirley Smoyak, the president of the APNA, many past presidents (a list of which includes my faculty mentor, Dr. Wolfe!), and the editor of the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.  In addition, I got to know nurses and nurse practitioners from New England, Louisiana, Washington, DC, New York, and all over the country. Each had a unique story and contributions to the field of psychiatric-mental health nursing. They were distinguished in what they had done in their careers.

A unifying feature of these nurse leaders was their willingness to share information and encouragement. This conference is the only place where I have been asked “have you considered getting your Ph.D. yet?”  with  just 7 months left in my Masters, instead of just being congratulated. The conference provided a wonderful environment for someone young and budding into the profession, because I was  surrounded by experienced individuals looking to encourage me and impart pearls of wisdom they would have liked to have known earlier in their careers.

Besides meeting incredible people, I learned about issues all over the country in nursing. In some states the fight for nurse practitioner autonomy has become more prevalent. However, I was most struck by the stories I heard from Louisiana. Since Hurricane Katrina, many mental health providers did not return after the storm. This left the Louisiana population in dire need of care. Since then, political issues have led to the closure of many more mental health facilities. The lasting effects of the storm affected the mental health of the people and there are not enough resources to give them the care they need.

Being surrounded by individuals who are truly passionate about what they do is invigorating to a young nurse and future nurse practitioner. I was struck by the work of APNA members in areas of research, practice, and advocacy. Having so many distinguished role models in the field, and at home at Boston College, I feel truly privileged to be able to do what I’m doing with my career. The lasting impact is feeling empowered to work towards my goals and be a good nurse leader. As graduation is quickly approaching, I need to critically reflect on just what I want my impact to be. My passion for psychiatric-mental health nursing was strengthened even further, and I look forward to next year’s APNA conference!

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