Gillian Flanigan

September 2009


This I believe about nursing… “Nursing is about the integration of all parts of well-being, and that is why it is the path for me.”

Nursing was not my first career choice. I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, a professsion that I thought could help me change how people regarded mental illness, to lessen the stigma. I wanted this to be my path in life, until I realized that such a career choice would not provide me with the opportunity to achieve these personal goals. I say this not because I now believe my original career choice would not help others but because it did not address my most staunch belief in life, the belief that mental illness should not be regarded any differently than any other medical issue.
For me, becoming a psychologist meant an admission that I believe mental health is separate from physical health and should be addressed with a different sort of professional care. In nursing, advanced practice nurses typically pick specialties but even in their respective fields, they acknowledge the importance of every other specialty in the medical community. This was the health community I wanted to be a part of, one where mental health could be respected as part of the continuum of heathcare and not as a separate entity. As an aspiring second-degree student with a previous Bachelor of Arts in psychology, there were very few schools that could offer me the opportunity to become an advanced practice psychiatric/mental health nurse at that stage of my education. Fortunately, I found the right place at the University of Pennsylvania. At the University of Pennsylvania, I felt like the faculty and staff understood the importance of incorporating mental and physical health care together.
 The fact that I had found my future niche in the healthcare community put me at ease but the looming thought of grappling with thousands of dollars in student loans was perhaps as intimidating and frightening to me as many people seem to consider mental illness to be. Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, I have peace of mind about being able to pursue my dreams of helping others and seeing the importance of mental health and its rightful place in conventional healthcare. Likewise, I hope that my future will allow me to provide the same peace of mind to those who struggle with mental illness. I believe that nursing is about the integration of all parts of well-being, and that is why nursing is the path for me.