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Olivia Mary Frances Arnold, GR’21

“Most nursing students don’t think about nursing research when starting their nursing program. We’re more concerned with starting IV’s, memorizing drug flashcards, and hoping we get the clinical placement we want. However, there are so many other aspects to nursing science.

Throughout my undergraduate program I was always told that nurses have limitless options for career paths, but nursing research never seemed to be one that stuck with me.

It wasn’t until working clinically that I knew I wanted to pursue a research career. I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan and happened to begin my clinical work in the neonatal intensive care unit during and in the aftermath of the Flint Water Crisis. I worked with families daily who were concerned about their own lead exposure and what impact it would have on their newly born child. At the time, and even to this day, we didn’t know what this exposure meant for these children. I realized that I couldn’t address these questions and problems at the bedside. I loved caring for my tiny patients, but I needed to know what would happen to them long term, and especially, if there was anything we could be doing now to prevent negative outcomes.

I began my research training at Trinity College Dublin where I earned my Masters in Science in Nursing with a focus in Child Health and Wellbeing. A PhD in nursing was my next step,which brought me to Penn Nursing— the top nursing program in the world with a heavy focus on research. There just so happened to be a nurse researcher here with a shared interest in environmental exposures and child development, Dr. Jianghong Liu. I’m pleased to say I’ve recently defended my dissertation and am continuing on to a postdoctoral research position at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

I know a lot more now about the impact of lead exposure on child health and development than I did when I started off as a new nurse. I’m beyond excited to continue an interdisciplinary career and gain expertise in epidemiology, toxicology, public health, and neuroscience all in an effort to find ways to change the outcomes for lead exposed children. We have such an opportunity as nurses to provide a nursing perspective on the world’s most pressing health matters and contribute to evidence-based solutions. While learning how to start an IV is fun, I urge our new nurses to consider research in their future careers. We really do have limitless options for ways to influence the healthof those around us.”

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