Who Is That Nurse?

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Why did you become a nurse and how did you originally become a nurse within the ID field?

I wasn’t sure at 18 about future career choices, and found myself in a diploma nursing program at Chestnut Hill Hospital.  Upon graduation I was again unsure about which area of nursing I would pursue, moved to New York and worked on a surgical floor in a large academic medical center.  I completed my BSN, went on to get my Masters, during which I floated “prn” for 3 years at Jefferson Hospital, and became a Nurse Practitioner. Over the next 10 years I worked in College Health, Migrant Health, Occupational Health, Indian Health, Women’s Health, even spent 6 months in London (working as a prn float nurse), and 2 years in Alaska working with a Community Health Aide Program.  All of these experiences confirmed that I had the best career ever, as I continued to love learning and the varied experiences and opportunities nursing afforded to provide service and do meaningful work.  In 1999 a colleague from my PhD program asked me to write a proposal to create an organization to oversee care for persons with intellectual disability, which began my journey within the ID field.  I was an Assistant Professor at Penn State, located in Hershey, PA, raising three children and again loved the idea of a new challenge.  The SouthCentral PA Heath Care Quality Unit was born, and still continues although it is no longer affiliated within a university setting. 

How have your experiences influenced your philosophies about nursing?

It has led me to work with some extraordinary people (like the nurses at PCHC), service agencies (like KenCrest), group home staff, and self-advocates.  From all of these remarkable people I learned the importance of self-determination, advocacy, and empowerment which has tremendously influenced my philosophic approach to nursing research which is collaborative and participatory. I focus on marginalized people and work hard to educate, advocate and empower others.   

What are some highlights of ID nursing?

A highlight and privilege for me this past year was being invited by ANA’s Ethics Advisory Board along with 3 other nurses: (Cathy Robichaux, Jeanie Sauerland and Liz Stokes) to develop a position statement titled the Nurses’ Role in the Care of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.  This document will be reviewed by the public this spring (2018).  It is our sincere hope that by promoting ethical care we can improve the quality of life for persons with ID.