By Sonia (Chiamaka) Okorie ’17
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.
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.
By Rachel Lehouillier
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Advocate for yourself at all times.
- 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.
As a student at Boston College, Sabianca Delva (’11) began her path as a nurse leader by serving as President of the Massachusetts Student Nurses Association. Soon after graduation, while working full-time as an RN at Massachusetts General Hospital, Sabianca was elected secretary of the American Nurses Association Massachusetts. In September of 2015, she began the next step of her journey when she enrolled in the PhD program in Nursing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.
On behalf of the KILN community, we would like to congratulate Sabianca and thank her for sharing some recent updates:
Greetings KILN community! Nearly five years have passed since I left BC with a strong foundation in leadership, scholarship, and service. I am committed to further developing these skills as a nurse scientist through the opportunities here at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, where I have been engaged in several professionally fulfilling activities. I serve as the Publicity and Newsletter Chair for the Nu Beta Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI), as a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and recently elected VP/President-Elect of the Doctoral Student Organization, and as a student on the committee of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Community Research Advisory Board. Last fall, I started my research residency with Dr. Hae-Ra Han, conducting research to eliminate disparities in cardiovascular health within the Latino populace of Baltimore. I have been fortunate to have three abstracts accepted for poster presentations related to this study; most recently, I presented at the 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Ethics Forum in Atlanta, Georgia. I will presenting my next abstract at the 27th STTI International Congress in Cape Town, South Africa in July 2016. I owe a debt of gratitude to the KILN program, where I had many opportunities that put me on the right path starting as an undergraduate.
I attended the 3rd Annual Cultural Inclusion Institute conference in San Antonio, Texas on April 21 and 22 of 2016. I was fortunately funded to attend through the Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Nursing program. As a nursing student, I had an incredible experience gaining knowledge!
The theme of this conference was “Relating Cultural Inclusiveness to Social Determinants of Health.” After listening to the different speakers and presentations, I was able to define social determinants of health and understand how they drive inequities for individuals and communities. I also learned about trends found in the data analysis and approaches created to reduce health disparities across different populations.
Now knowing the social determinants of health that need to be addressed, the most powerful message I got out of this conference was that we, as health care professionals, must be voices and instigators of change. When it comes to the issue of access to health care, we bring credibility and should act as coordinators and motivators to address the social and political issues that influence health care access in our communities. A quote that really stood out to me was that “people must make good choices but must have good choices to make.”
A notable discussion for me was the effect of exclusion on minority populations, for example LGBTQ individuals. The realization that there are very few laws prohibiting student bullying and employment and housing discrimination against LGBTQ individuals was astonishing. This population is so vulnerable and lacks not just access to health services but culturally competent care.
Though there is no quick solution to eliminate health inequities, we talked about some starting points to initiate change. Proposed steps include better policies, data collection and actual interventions across the lifespan that would change the system. This includes tailoring the curriculum for health care professionals and putting relevant questions on licensing exams. I felt encouraged that great solutions had been drafted and there is a resounding push to get them into play in the community.
I received a wealth of knowledge, including techniques I could utilize to improve patient-provider communication, but most of all I was given so much inspiration and empowerment through example and acknowledgment of my social and ethical responsibilities. I truly realized my privilege and passion, in the Boston College spirit, to be a woman for others.
On April 28, 2016, Lauren O’Shea (’16) was the winner of the 2016 Mary Pekarski Memorial Award from Alpha Chi, the Boston College chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society for Nursing. This award is given annually to a student member of Alpha Chi whose personal essay demonstrates creativity, originality, and excellent writing style from the perspective of a future time. In her essay, Lauren reflected on the influence of her grandfather, who encouraged her to choose a career that would allow her to make a positive difference in the lives of others and helped her to recognize that her strengths were compatible with the profession of nursing. She recalled the impact of her experience caring for patients in the Nueva Vida Clinic in Nicaragua, where hope and gratitude outweighed lack of resources; this experience reinforced the importance of the individualized, holistic care patient care that Lauren will incorporate throughout her career. After graduating with her BS in May, Lauren will complete her master’s degree at Boston College in an accelerated program that will prepare her for certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner.