I graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON) with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing in 1996. As graduation loomed, I sat on the steps of the SON many times and told my classmates that I “didn’t really care where I worked as a nurse – but I am never going to work with old people, and I am never going to work in a nursing home”. About a month before graduation, my Mom called and told me she had met a local nursing home administrator who was willing to give me a job as soon as I graduated. So, in May of 1996, I started my career working in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) in Wilmington, North Carolina as the Quality Assurance/ Infection Control Nurse. Once I got into the nursing home and started working with older adults, I discovered that I loved it and have never left. My story was made into a recruitment video by the John A. Hartford Foundation in 2011 “Why Geriatric Nursing?”
From 1996-1999, I held several other administrative nursing positions including Director of Nursing, Minimum Data Set (MDS) Coordinator, and the daytime Nurse Supervisor. Each of these positions allowed me to learn key aspect of SNF administration and the regulatory policies that govern all SNFs in the United States. Many days, in addition to my administrative duties, I provided direct resident care to fill in for licensed nurses. By working the medication cart, and attending to the direct care needs of our residents, I developed a deep understanding of the demands of balancing daily care with regulatory policies (e.g., charting) puts on licensed nurses and certified nursing assistants.
During this time, a new model of care arrived in Wilmington – Nurse Practitioners (NPs) working with Geriatrician(s) started coming in to the SNF for the first time. I saw first-hand the improvement in the quality of care these provider teams offered our residents, improvements in communication, and the support offered to families. One day, one of the NPs mentioned UNCW SON was going to be starting their first Master’s program in the fall of 1998, so I applied to their Family Nurse Practitioner program and began a new chapter in my clinical career.