A soon-to-be RN dreams about running a community health center. Another nursing student wants to pursue a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and a woman in a BSN program aspires to combine critical care nursing with understanding a patients home life.
Those three and 14 other Philadelphia-area nursing students and recent graduates are learning the leadership skills to fulfill their dreams in public health nursing through the Carpenter Community Nursing Fellowship, sponsored by the National Nursing Centers Consortium. The 15-week fellowship aims to introduce nursing students and graduates to public health and community-based nursing through readings, site visits and relationships with mentors, said Laura Wesolowski, technical assistance program coordinator for the consortium in Philadelphia.
Baheejah Mahdi said the fellowship has inspired her to pursue her goal of running a community health clinic.
This program makes me feel like theres a place for me in the community to make a difference, said Mahdi, who has a bachelors degree in public health and received her nursing degree in June from the Community College of Philadelphia.
How the fellowship started
The fellowship came about as a result of the 2010 Institute of Medicines report on the future of nursing that discusses competencies in public health nursing, said Wesolowski, a member of the team that created the fellowship.
The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation supports the program with a grant, and each student receives a $2,000 scholarship covering travel to and from the kickoff event, site visits, mentoring sessions and a consortium conference.
The program includes weekly reading assignments that require responses from the fellows. Fellows also complete three site visits to community health settings, such as a nurse-managed health center, a convenient care clinic and a community-based home visit program, according to the consortium. The fellows participate in a one-day site visit to the consortium to discuss leadership, policy and the business side of nurse-managed care as well as a Social Innovations Journal conference on the integration of community-based primary care and behavioral health.
Mentors are a key piece of the fellowship, Wesolowski said, noting the IOM report found many nurses drop out of the profession in their first few years because of a lack of mentoring. The fellowship has been able to match the students and recent graduates with nurses in their field.
Blake Beckwith, CPRP, a nursing student at the Community College of Philadelphia, is working toward becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner and is benefiting from the exposure the fellowship is giving him to mentors and other practitioners in the field.
A community-based clinic could be a place for Beckwith to reach his goal of working as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. His mentor works at a clinic for homeless people, many of whom have drug or alcohol problems or mental health disorders, which makes the clinic an ideal place for a psychiatric NP, he said.
Earning a fellowship, awarded to only 17 participants from 70 applicants, was like winning the lottery, Beckwith said.
The program exposes students and recent graduates to public health nursing outside of physicians offices or hospitals, Wesolowski said.
Dulcina Bruyning, who graduated from the BSN program at Widener University in Chester, Pa., found the preventive aspect appealing. It really piqued my interest because after completing three rotations of med/surg clinical nursing and one psych rotation all in hospital settings I always wondered, What do these patients go home to? she said. Theres room for integrating acute care with public health or community health nursing.
Bruyning wants to work as an RN in a critical care setting before pursuing an advance practice degree and integrating community health nursing into acute-care practice.
Mahdi said she has learned a great deal about convenience clinics often located in pharmacies, such as CVS MinuteClinics. She sees the clinics as a way she can reach her goals of improving access to healthcare and educating community members about how to improve chronic health problems. There is a spot for me somewhere when Im done, she said.