Karen Jennings

May 2009
Class of 2011


This I believe about nursing… “It has given me the opportunity to be a leader in developing patient care and education while providing comfort and support.”

My clinical experience at McLean Hospital made me realize that I desired a career that allowed me to help and comfort individuals as they processed how life events deeply affected them. As a mental health specialist on the Eating Disorders Unit, I have had the opportunity to work alongside psychiatric nurses, and together, we have been responsible for a group of young women who are suffering from an eating disorder as well as other co-morbid disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety, OCD, personality disorders). As each day brings new challenges and each patient encounters her own individual struggles and crisis, I have learned how to respond efficiently and successfully to critical situations; as well as provide insight, feedback, and a sense of trust and safety to each patient. I have had the privilege to observe how nurses interact with patients and their families, and how each moment provides the nurse with an opportunity for intervention or assessment. Our nurses are able to make a more significant impact on the lives of others, through both medical knowledge and more advanced clinical skills, while simultaneously providing individuals with comfort and security.

As I continually collaborate with nurses, clinicians, psychiatrists, and administration to provide our patients with exceptional treatment, I have realized that becoming an advanced practice nurse would provide me with the opportunity to not only be a leader in developing patient care and educating patients, but I would also be able to coordinate health care services and use theory and research to improve the care of nurses. It was not until my best friend’s husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, while she was eight months pregnant, that I experienced the competence, dedication, and leadership of nurses from the patient perspective. I vividly remember the way they cared for both my friend and her husband, while the couple suffered enormous emotional and physical strain. Not only did the nurses have the medical expertise, they were extremely comforting and made my friend and her husband feel secure. It was this perspective, coupled with my own understanding of the challenges and rewards inherent in the profession, which so firmly convinced me that I myself wanted to become a nurse. This array of experiences has given me a firm grasp of the significance and effectiveness of maintaining an individual connection as people encounter situations that may deeply affect them.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is committed to embracing racial, ethnic and economic diversity within the nursing profession, has provided me with the opportunity to make the next step towards my new career. Through my educational experience at Boston College, I will have the opportunity to combine my crisis management experiences with science-based assessment and intervention skills; as well as, gain expert knowledge and clinical skills to be able to implement change in the medical field and in the lives of others.
RWJF Human Capital Blog: Karen's February 3, 2012 posting.