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Lauren Marconi: About Me, a Current ABSN Student at Penn Nursing

Hello Prospective ABSN students!

My name is Lauren Marconi, and I am a brand new ABSN student who just started at Penn Nursing in June 2020. I wanted to write this post (and future posts) so that you could get a taste of what it is like to be an ABSN student at Penn Nursing from my experiences so far!

A little bit about me

I am from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, which is about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia – depending on traffic, of course! I went to Franklin and Marshall College and majored in biology with a focus on neuroscience. I spent a lot of my time in college focused on patch clamp electrophysiology of sea urchin tube feet cells to study how they are able to see and move in very dark conditions. Here, I wanted to see if a rewarding substance, such as cocaine, would affect place preference of sea urchins in dark or light areas. Yes – this is a very strange project, but it was fun, and I loved research. In fact, I thought I was going to get a PhD after college. While in college, I also spent time as an EMT on campus, which was my first taste caring for patients directly.

The skills I learned in biology and neuroscience brought me to the University of Maryland in Baltimore. There, I studied opioid use disorder and reward behaviors in mice. This was a most rigorous job in a cutting-edge research laboratory. My time in Baltimore cemented my passion and love for research. I loved studying circuitries in the brain that could pathologically change. I loved asking questions, reading papers, and doing the experiments to uncover the mysteries of black boxes in neuroscience. I loved creating something from nothing, using my resources and my own brain to solve complex problems, to teach myself to code at a basic level, and to teach myself the anatomy and beautiful complexity of the brain. However, I was so distant from actual patients suffering from the topics I researched in the lab. I felt like I wanted more to my experience. I wanted to relate what I studied and saw at a molecular level to patients I could potentially care for in a clinic. This became the dream at the time. I spent many days in Baltimore wondering how I’d be able to obtain that goal. Then, I discovered how holistic the profession of nursing was, which centers the entire patient from a basic level to the most complex of levels.

I began shadowing at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital with the support of my boss, who allowed me to take time out of my day to cuddle withdrawing infants whose mothers were using or misusing opioids. This was integral to my decision to apply to nursing school. I was so impressed and enthralled by the nurses who cared 24/7 for critical neonates. Being able to hold a child in pain and know that my touch and warmth could help that child’s nervous system settle so that they could sleep or maybe feel any respite of pain was enough to have me hooked. I just wanted to help, as cliché as that sounds. I found myself asking so many questions about this experience. How can we mitigate the pain of these babies? What are better methods of helping babies withdraw from any substance? Are the methods we are currently using the best ones? Are they evidence-based practices? Unfortunately, my time at University of Maryland came to an end as my lab was moved to another state. So, I sought another opportunity in a laboratory at the Perelman School of Medicine that focused on chronic pain, pain management, and non-opioid analgesics. At my new lab, I was able to study my research topic of choice, surrounding neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. I wanted to study maternal deprivation, withdrawal symptoms, and ways to pharmacologically intercept the painfulness of withdrawal in utero.

Though I didn’t find any answers with this, I was excited for the experience because, at the same time, I was applying to nursing school and finding out that nurses can also get PhDs and do research. I ended up applying to a few nursing schools but was deciding between a neonatal NP ABSN/MSN at Penn Nursing and the Hillman Scholars Program BSN-PhD at UNC. I decided to choose Penn Nursing for my education because of its world-wide recognition in nursing education and clinical specialties, but I found that Philadelphia and the Penn network was the best place to continue studying the subjects I loved. Now, I am in my second semester of the ABSN during COVID-19, and it is challenging but so worth it. I know that I have the best resources and faculty at Penn to support my research endeavors once I become a nurse and later as an advanced practice nurse. Penn Nursing has some of the best clinical placements, especially as it is part of the Penn Medicine and CHOP communities. The education is second to none, and I am so happy to be part of this community. I believe that Penn will allow me to continue using innovation and curiosity in the pursuit of caring for patients with the most complex health issues, and I cannot wait to see my career trajectory unfold with this Penn Nursing education.