Compassionate care is key for nursing student and fellowship winner

November 08, 2018

Ford examines a baby in an incubator with a nurse looking on

During her sophomore year of nursing school, Alexandra Ford ’19, spent her nights caring for her great-grandmother who was suffering from dementia — making sure she was taking her medication and staying safe.

The journey to this appropriate care, however, had not been an easy one. Ford’s great-grandmother was initially misdiagnosed with psychiatric issues, shuffled between 30 different hospital rooms in less than 3 months, and eventually placed in solitary in a psychiatric ward.

This experience showed the future nurse the negative side of health care. After witnessing the contrast in treatment her great-grandmother received from respectful medical providers compared to desensitized ones, Ford knew the kind she wanted to be.

“My goal is to be a nurse who I would want to leave my grandma in the hands of, and continue the chain reaction of empathetic, compassionate nurses,” she said.

As an orientation leader, a student ambassador for our undergraduate admissions office, a peer fellow in biology in the Learning Commons and QTHON’s director of recruitment, Ford was already integrating her passion for helping others into her activities outside the classroom when she learned about a unique fellowship that supports the type of health care provider she aspires to become.

The Susan D. Flynn Oncology Nursing Fellowship was created by Fred Flynn in honor of his late wife, Susan, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 2013. Inspired by the valuable and compassionate care Flynn saw his wife receive from her oncology nurses, the fellowship’s aim is to attract, inspire and help professionally develop the next generation of oncology nurses.

The program offers undergraduate nursing students in the Northeast clinical exposure to oncology nursing at leading cancer care hospitals and expert training in compassionate care.

Since 2014, the program has expanded from 11 interns competitively selected from 3 top undergraduate nursing schools by five leading hospitals to 32 interns from more than 20 nursing schools selected by 13 program partner hospitals this year.

This year, Quinnipiac nursing students were invited to apply for the fellowship for the first time in conjunction with the program’s implementation at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC).

With a 3.9 GPA and personal interest in the therapeutic communication aspect of nursing, it was no surprise that Ford won out in a competitive field of 47 Quinnipiac applicants to the program.

Over the summer, she spent eight weeks at CCMC in Hartford working on the inpatient pediatric hematology and oncology floor. During her fellowship, Ford not only gained hands-on experience mastering practical skills such as placing IVs and performing tracheotomies, but invaluable communication skills.

“I was able to develop more confidence in explaining to kids what their disease is, what procedure they are having or what symptoms they may face in a way that they can understand – which is one of the most important aspects of nursing,” she said.

At the end of her fellowship, Ford presented a research project consisting of three different bedside tools she developed to help medical professionals enhance patient and family education.

“It is my goal to heighten awareness about the importance of family education and patient-family-centered care in the pediatric setting,” she explained. “When you walk into a room as a pediatric nurse, you don’t just have one patient, you have as many patients as family members and that is the beauty of caring for children.”

Ford will be returning to the inpatient pediatric hematology and oncology floor at CCMC as a personal care assistant later this year.

Her time in our Center for Medicine, Health Sciences and Nursing’s simulation labs is what she believes has been the most valuable experience in her transition to patient care.

“The simulation suite on the North Haven Campus was one of the reasons I chose Quinnipiac,” she said. “It is also the reason why I feel so prepared to be an RN and confident to serve as a student nurse in the clinical setting.”

After graduation, Ford hopes to continue her time at CCMC as an RN specializing in hematology and oncology. She will also serve as an ambassador and mentor to future Flynn Fellows and hopes to earn a doctorate of nursing practice in pediatric acute care.

“At the end of my career, I picture myself as a professor, teaching future nurses and watching future generations fall in love with the profession the way I did when I was a student at Quinnipiac.”

“Alexandra distinguished herself this summer as a Flynn Fellow in the Pediatric Oncology Nursing Program I sponsor at CCMC,” said Fred Flynn. “She possesses all the special qualities we look for in our fellows, is an outstanding role model for this unique program, and seems destined to be a wonderful oncology nurse and future nurse leader.”

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