Major: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Where are you currently working?
I currently work for Penn Medicine/Chester County Hospital in the Consult Liaison Psychiatry department as the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Team Lead. I also have a second role at Rittenhouse Psychiatric Associates, where I maintain the Outpatient Psychiatry evaluation and medication management process.
Did you always want to pursue a career in nursing, particularly in your current field? How did your passion develop?
When I began my professional career in finance many years ago, I knew I was in the wrong profession. Any time I was in a medical setting, whether it was to visit a family member in the hospital or at an outpatient office appointment for myself, I always felt a sense of belonging that I couldn’t explain. I came to a crossroads in my late thirties—I could either continue in a career where I felt unfulfilled and live with regret for not taking a risk, or I could take a leap of faith and become a nurse. So as a 38-year-old single mother, I took that leap and never looked back!
My career as a bedside nurse started in level one emergency trauma, and I couldn’t have been more in love with my new career. However, it was through the emergency room as well as my own family member’s struggles with mental illness that I soon learned of the unfortunate stigma and barriers to care that exists for this population. I knew we could do better. So, once again, I headed back to school to attend Penn’s PMHNP MSN program with the goal of becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner.
What is the most satisfying part of your work?
My work provides me with endless opportunity to improve the lives of those struggling every single day. How cool is that? Even better, because I have positions in both the outpatient and inpatient/emergency medical setting, there is never a day where I don’t see and treat something new. I could spend one day in the hospital where I’m assisting a geriatric patient with delirium after surgery, another patient in their thirties with acute psychosis, and yet another patient coping with the stress and anxiety of a terminal diagnosis. Then the next day I’m treating a college student with depression, a stay-at-home mom with bipolar disorder, and so on. It never gets boring but, more importantly, it is always rewarding.
How did Penn Nursing help you achieve your personal and professional goals? What is next for you?
My experience at Penn Nursing was simply exceptional. My instructors and professors were so knowledgeable and inspiring. Students at Penn Nursing have limitless opportunities to learn and connect with experts in so many ways. I am especially thankful for my clinical experience as it allowed me to gain insight into consult-liaison psychiatry, something I knew little about previously. I’ve remained in close contact with several of my instructors as well as my cohort, which is so valuable in this field. I hope to always pay that forward.
Nearly every person in the field of nursing has had at least one or two A-ha moments that that changed the way they think about healthcare, nursing, or their career—or just generally had a massive impact on you. What are yours?
Stigmas! Stigmas concerning substance use and mental health are omnipresent in our society and in health care. That said, I cannot name one moment that changed my perception or career plans; rather, it was a culmination of experiences both professionally, as an ED nurse, and personally, as a concerned family member, that impacted me the most and pivoted my goals toward a career in psychiatry that not only provides relief to my patients but also helps to chisel away at these unnecessary and damaging stigmas.
What is something most people would find surprising about you?
I am addicted to podcasts! While I’m always interested in a good psychopharmacology podcast, I’ve deviated from the genre recently and am currently obsessed with Deeply Human, Freakanomics, Historical Figures, and ReThinking with Adam Grant.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to current Penn Nursing students or young alumni?
We’ve all heard it a hundred times before but seriously: do not ever stop learning. However, it doesn’t always have to be about your career. In fact, take advantage of all Penn has to offer, and learn something new. It keeps us engaged and interesting!