Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Winding down...The final three weeks of year one:)

            Three weeks left?! That can’t be right.  I just got here. Some of my kitchen appliances are still in their boxes, my closet remains a complete black hole of disorganization, and I just managed to figure out where to get the best Hawaiian pizza. There is no way I have already almost completed 18 credits worth of graduate work at Regis College. 
            That was the response I gave when I left my house in Chelsea, Maine yesterday after a very filling Easter brunch with my family.  My mom had given me a big hug, shoved a bag of homemade blueberry muffins in my hands, and said, “So we’ll see you in three weeks?” I immediately blanked.  I had just purchased a new car, which was an incredible process given my affinity for the particulars.  An entire Friday spent at the dealership driving 5 cars, only to return to the very first one I saw.  On the two and a half hour drive back to Waltham I had nothing on my mind about May, summer, or finishing spring semester.  There were two things major that turned over and over in my brain:
The first was my research proposal.  For about 12 weeks I have tweaked, built-up, tore-down, and cultivated this proposal for my Advanced Nursing Research class that is 50% of my grade and a major accomplishment in the graduate world.  I would call it a labor of love because it is based on a subject that I am both passionate about and pretty well-versed.  The title of the piece is “The Use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Treatment of Postpartum Depression in Rural Women: A Follow-up of Insight-Plus”.  The premise behind this work goes back my presentation in last semester’s Nursing Theory class.  I gave a presentation about Cheryl Tetano Beck’s grand nursing theory of Postpartum Depression and the lived experiences of women.  Through in-depth interviews she was able to gain knowledge on the horrifying and very real experiences of women through various stages of their depression.  This was a hallmark study and one that continued to be both controversial in its authenticity but a source of relief for many women.  I decided to continue this work into my research class and look towards cognitive behavioral therapy as a means to treat symptoms in these individuals.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is very holistic in its’ roots and draws from the foundations of psychotherapy and positive affirmations.  Through weeks of research and re-organizing, I have been able to form a proposal that calls for an increase in the study of women who have received this type of therapy.  Given its highly applicable and non-pharmaceutical aspects, I think that this type of treatment has the potential to be revolutionary, especially in the rural healthcare setting.  My research class has allowed me to investigate an area that is very interesting to me and to become more knowledgeable as a practitioner through advanced research.  While it is a lot of work and can be at times very frustrating, the faculty at Regis has done a great job in guiding me and insuring that the proposal fits with my vision for the study. 
In the Nurse Practitioner program, you do not have to actually go through with the study.  But it does set you up very nicely for your doctorate thesis if you chose to venture that way.  I also have the option of using this proposal in the future should I chose to pursue my doctorate down the road. 
The second topic running through my mind these days is finding a preceptor.  When I asked fellow students when I should start searching for a preceptor for next year they always reply with the same answer: “Yesterday”.  Now that I have gone through the process and continue to work myself through its’ web, I can see very clearly what they mean.  I am currently applying for a preceptorship experience in Maine so I can begin practicing and learning where I one day hope to work.  I also have decided that given this opportunity, I will save money on rent by living at home.  While Regis does set you up with a preceptor, they also give you the option of finding one for yourself if you chose to do so.  I have chosen that later and it has been very interesting. 
If I could describe the preceptorship search in one word I would say that it is delicate.  To date I have applied to 6 locations, with 6 specific healthcare professionals and probably about 40 MD’s in all.  I have looked towards private, association-run, and medically affiliated hospitals with outlying offices and departments.  I have called, emailed, faxed, and visited these institutions numerous times.  After all of that, I have received many calls, emails, and words of wisdom.  I quickly learned that the competitive field of advanced nursing practice is one that is not only booming it is flourishing.  And as a student specializing in Women’s Health, while I have the world at my feet I also have absolutely nothing written in stone.  In the final year of the MSN program one has to complete a total of 600 hours in the field. For me, that means 310 in Gynecology, 190 in Obstetrics, and 100 in Primary Care of the Adult.  Having already secured my Primary Care location (under an MD who has known my family long before I was even a thought), I am diligently searching for a place to fulfill my specialty hours.  I search and call daily.  I email, visit, and forward resume after resume. I take the polite declines with the eager accepts.  I began this process in December.  It is now April. 
It seems extremely easy to get discouraged with this process.  One might think that the possibility of getting a position is hopeless, or even impossible.  But in those times when I receive a rejection due to various reasons, I remind myself that this is supposed to be arduous.  There are places welcoming students into their practices, but they are all different.  It is important to find a preceptor and a location that fits your flavor and your vision for practice.  There have been a couple of places that have offered their services, but I have had to decline based on my own preferences and a gut feeling for the practice.  Searching for a preceptor, like buying a car, is about a lot of things.  But it is mostly about finding that perfect fit. Take your time, take the good with the bad, but most importantly, make it your own.  I hope that by my next blog, I will have clinched a position for my Obstetrics.  Babies, women, it’s all good! Until next timeJ

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In like...a Lion!

   Before leaving for Spring break, Regis welcomed the coming of March in a very Pride-esque way.  The first of the month brought wet, heavy snow that caked onto cars and boots and slowed the pace of the often busy college community.  In like a lion, indeed.  Trudging into work that day I realized that I was not alone; students and faculty meandered into College Hall in snow gear and hats, shaking the cold off of them, ready to start another Thursday.  Given the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been experiencing, this storm was quite a surprise, but it didn’t seem to slow Regis down one bit. 

As I boarded the Concord Bus headed to Maine at South Station for my week off, I ran through the list of things to do in my head: work on research proposal, flash cards for pharmacology, and a healthcare memo for policy.  Also on the list was walk on the Kennebec Rail Trail with dad, lunch with mom, and sleep, sleep, sleep.  Clearly this week was jam-packed, but I was determined to work hard but also enjoy seeing my friends and family. 
The three hour bus ride to Augusta, Maine was surprisingly fast; I read half of my latest book, The Hunger Games, which I HIGHLY recommend to anyone who has a pulse.  At first I just wanted to see the movie, but couldn’t deal with the guilt of not having given the book a chance.  So I decided to purchase it on my beloved Nook (sorry Kindle folks, Nooks ruleJ), and figured I’d get about 23 pages in before I tossed it aside for a game of Angry Birds.  Instead, I found myself at the middle of the novel, still sitting on the bus as my dad knocked on my window.  I was at my stop already and clearly looking foolish, but I finished half of a book!  I felt super proud of myself.  This is quite a feat for me as I am a very slow reader and tend to get bored easily, especially when the only video playing on the bus is Kung Fu Panda and I am surrounded by small children.  AND, it was not a textbook or article I had to read for my research proposal; quite a refreshing change to my usual student duties.  I added finishing The Hunger Games to my “Spring Break To-Do List” and suggested to my dad we stop at my favorite local pizza shop for lunch.
Spring break unfolded in a similar manner from there.  Days passed as I slept till 8 (joy), leisurely enjoyed morning coffee with my dad, and headed off to the local Panera to work on some school work.  I even managed to wake up at 5am to join my mom for her pre-work run…twice!  Given the fact that I still reside with my parents when I’m not in my Waltham apartment, I enjoyed home-cooked meals every night and woke up to freshly made Blonde Blend coffee from Starbucks each morning (my favorite!).  Life at home was like living in a hotel…except there’s no valet and your brother drinks all the milk. 

My spring break setting was also very conducive to my school work load.  Instead of jetting off to a tropical land full of fruity drinks and coconut tanning lotion, I rode a communal bus for 3 hours to the 20 degree chill of the Pine Tree State.  As depressing as that vacation sounds, it was very necessary given the fact that I am in graduate school.  Taking classes full time is just that: it’s full time.  Not only am I in classes for three hours at a time, I often work the rest of the day, only to arrive home at dinner time, eat, and work on homework until I can’t keep my eyes open.  It’s work, work, and more work.  That is why having an entire week off to catch up on school work feels like a luxury in itself.  I have to say I felt extremely productive and motivated that week because it was the perfect balance of fun and work.  I also feel that coming to graduate school directly out of my undergraduate has given me an advantage; Being 23, not married, and without children has certainly allowed me to focus my whole self on school and making sure that I am successful in this program.  I also have the ability to return home to my parents on breaks and re-energize with their support and home-made mac & cheese.  My family and I are very close and, for me, these getaways are very possible due to the flexibility of my job and of Regis.   I do continue to work while on breaks, as I support myself financially, but there is more leeway given the timing of my graduate studies.  My time can be spent stewing over a paper for 3 hours, enjoying lunch with a friend, and returning to that same paper for another 3 hours.  And while I know I will one day be rewarded for spending my Spring Break at the Augusta Panera, for now, my only indulgence is a dark chocolate scone and maple-latte.   

One week later, and I am back in Weston, getting ready for “the final lap” of spring semester.  I feel re-vitalized, caught-up on work and ready to finish up the semester. Goals for the next week?  Finish the Review of the Literature Section of my research proposal.  My topic is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in rural women with postpartum depression.  Just saying the title stresses me out, but I am determined to focus and give it my all.  It is slated to be sunny, breezy, and highs in the 70’s this week at Regis.  Out like a lamb perhaps?  Stay tunedJ

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Regalos & Peru Benefit Dinner

Me and Shannon Tonelli, a Fulbright Scholar who spent 9 months teaching in Peru...and a Regis Alum and current Grad Student!

Members of Campus Ministry speak about their upcoming trip to Peru

The Student Success Center Table!...indulging in treats and great wine:)

Many students and faculty came out for the event...there were raffles and many prizes!

       This week at Regis, students and faculty will gather for a benefit dinner for the Campus Ministry’s trip to Peru this March.  Tonight, Thursday February 23rd, is the benefit dinner in the College Hall Foyer.  I will be attending the dinner with friends and colleagues from the Undergraduate Advising department as well as the Student Success Center.  Working with these individuals throughout the week has allowed me to appreciate them both as professionals and as humorous, kind, and thoughtful co-workers.  Attending the dinner together is something that I am very much looking forward to. 
                  While in the Graduate Admission office this morning I had the pleasure of meeting with Shannon Tonelli, a 2010  graduate of Regis who traveled to Peru for 9 month as a Fulbright Scholar to teach English at a major University.  Now she is pursuing a master’s degree in education at Regis College.  Shannon was bright, happy, and clearly loved by the Regis community.  She brought with her a photo album depicting her trip which she shared with us and with other faculty and students.  She laughed, hugged, and reminisced with everyone who was eager to hear about her adventures.  Among the photos was an image of a sandwich stacked high with shrimp and spices atop a big fluffy bun.  My eyes immediately grew as I imagined the Peruvian feast I was going to enjoy tonight:  rices with different flavors and spices, juicy chicken, and exotic desserts.  I was then informed that tonight’s dinner was not going to include Peruvian food, but rather, an Italian spread.  Regardless, Italian food is something very near and dear to my heart thanks to the likes of Bertolli, Giada DeLaurentis , and Kraft “blue box”.   In spite of my feeling a bit foolish, I was secretly psyched for pasta-y treats!
                  While the meal is not one of Peruvian influences, the tone of is still the same.  We gather tonight to donate in any way we can to those traveling abroad to help others in need.  The Peru trip is something that Regis has been participating in for quite some time and has been a memorable experience for many.  Shannon recalled her teaching experiences with a smile saying that, “the students are just great, it was an incredible time”.  She was also able to parallel the teaching environment of Peru to that of the United States.  “While the culture is definitely different, the needs are very similar; an education, and in general, opportunity”, she said.  Her cultural outreach has also led her to seek higher education here at Regis.  “I went here for undergraduate and enjoyed it so returned for my graduate degree in education”.  This, I feel, is not uncommon at Regis College.  Students often seem to return either to visit or to seek another degree.  You are almost always guaranteed to see a former student inquiring about certificate programs or meeting former colleagues for lunch or coffee.  It is this warm sense of belonging that draws students to become strong alumni as well.  Most students will refer to the close-knit community of the college and the quality of education as their reason for coming back; they know that they were well supported by their faculty and administration in undergraduate and are then confident in their ability to excel in a graduate degree as well.  In working on my research proposal for Nursing Research, I was able to meet with faculty from the Doctorate in Nursing program.  This has inspired me not only to think forward towards my Doctorate degree, but to feel comfortable and confident pursuing it here at Regis in the future. 
                  The sense of community at Regis is seen on many occasions including the most recent ministry event, Ash Wednesday.  Students, faculty, and friends could be seen on their way to lunch with dark ash stains on their foreheads discussing the service and how nice it was for everyone to come together.  It seemed that everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation, had attended the service to be a part of the greater Regis community.  While the college has a very traditional atmosphere, it also has a strong social warmth that is amplified at community events.  I have no doubt that tonight will bring the same joyful laughter and support that is so characteristic of Regis. 
                  As I finish up my day in Graduate Admissions, I can hear the rustle of tablecloths and silverware as the foyer is prepared for tonight’s event.  A student is playing a bubbly tune on the piano that can be heard all the way down the hall.  Many people stop and listen, smiling as this student is playing for neither money nor applause, just to create beautiful music for the hall.  In the coming and going of students, there are shouts of “hellos” and “see you laters”, and the tones are always genuine and affectionate.  And tonight I dine on great food with great friends.  It’s a great day to be a student at RegisJ

Friday, February 17, 2012

Soup & Salad...with the President!

 Every semester Regis College hosts opportunities for graduate students to meet and chat with President Antoinette Hays (or Toni as we like to call her).  Last semester you could attend a wine and cheese night where you could stroll over to Morrison House and enjoy a glass of chardonnay and casual conversation with Toni and others who represent Regis.  This past Saturday was an afternoon luncheon hosted by President Hays herself and Sister Rosemary, Dean of Students.  I was excited to attend the luncheon and was eager to share my experience thus far with the President.  I was also very excited at the thought of indulging in another delicious Regis meal as the dining services always have such a great spread!  Salad and other healthy options are available and the chocolate white chocolate chip cookies should really be illegal.  Between the treats and the company, I knew that this was an opportunity I certainly could not miss. 
                  Making my way up to Morrison House, I found myself at a halt, staring at this large brick building sitting atop a green grassy hill.  Built in 1900, this building was once the home of students and faculty who also studied and socialized in its halls.  Today, the beautiful Georgian structure holds various receptions and serves as a reminder of the tradition and unity of the college.  It was something I had always seen depicted on view books and brochures, but had never actually stood face to face with it…it was like seeing walking into Fenway park for the first time.  Except instead of having Jacoby Ellsbury inside, there were cookies.  I was equally thrilled. 
                  As I entered Morrison House I was greeted immediately by President Hays.  She gave me a warm smile, firm handshake, and addressed me by name.  “Ashley!” she said, “Welcome to my home.”  It was so nice to have such a prestigious and busy individual know my name, and even invite me into her own personal space.  It was an experience I had never fully gotten at the large university I attended.  And even in the midst of all the antique furniture and stunning d├ęcor, Dr. Hays managed to bring some ease and genuineness to the situation.  Coming from Maine many of the social situations I have been placed in are with people who you know personally, or, you might know their mother’s sister’s great cousin’s son.  Either way, there is typically a sense of connectedness and family at every meeting.  Talking with President Hays had a similar feeling; while I had only seen her a few times in the Graduate Admissions office, she seemed to know my story and why I was here at Regis.  As we helped ourselves to soup, salad, and sandwiches, we discussed the Nurse Practitioner program and how important this profession is going to be in the future.  We discussed the quickly growing array of programs Regis has to offer for students with all degree levels and backgrounds. 
                  As more students came for lunch and conversation, we discussed ideas  and suggestions that we could implement  as an institution to make the graduate experience better; everyone felt very comfortable bringing up concerns with the President who was also open and receptive of the feedback.  If there is one thing that President Hays is passionate about, it is most definitely the wellbeing and happiness of the students.  She shared with the group her plans for the coming years on ways to improve and grow Regis into an even more versatile and available institution.  All the while keeping the atmosphere light and engaging. 
                  I left Morrison House feeling optimistic about the state of affairs at Regis and thankful that President Hays took time out of her Saturday to share it with all of us.  I felt pleased with questions raised and certainly felt that my voice as both a graduate assistant and a student was heard.  Events like these take being a student to another level and Regis does a great job of scheduling moments like this.  There is another event on March 24th that I hope to attend.  There I hope to fill my mind (and my belly!) with all of the wonderful things Regis has to offer.  Until next time!