Meet University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill nursing professor Megan Williams and one of her former students, trauma center nurse Lindsey Lang. In this episode, they share their project with us—providing nutritious food and financial support to a local food bank for senior citizens.
MP3 Audio Podcast
Jamie Davis: Lindsey and Megan, I want to thank you both for coming on the show and welcome you here to Nursing Notes Live. I always like to start off the show, each episode, with talking a little bit about each of your backgrounds in nursing. And, Lindsey, we’ll go ahead and start with you. Do you want to tell us a little bit about why you wanted to become a nurse and something about where your nursing practice and educational process has brought you so far?
Lindsey Lang: Sure. For a long time, I wanted to work in healthcare. I did a lot of volunteer work growing up in a big hospital and I really enjoy that. Once I went to college at UNC, I started looking into nursing. I really liked how after getting my nursing degree I can jump right in to working in a hospital and working with people. Nurses really spend the majority of their time with the patients. That’s what I really liked. So I went to UNC Nursing School on Chapel Hill and actually just graduated this past May. I’m currently working at UNC in their Emergency Department.
Jamie Davis: Excellent. As a brand new student just graduated and now working in the field, the sky’s the limit. I guess you really feel like your prospects are wide open at this point.
Lindsey: Yes. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now working in the ER. I don’t know where I’ll end up taking me but I’m loving what I’m doing now.
Jamie Davis: Fantastic. Megan, how about you? What was your reason for becoming a nurse and something in your background that brought you where you are today?
Megan Williams: Sure. Well, thank you, Jamie, for having us on today. I am very lucky because growing up I was surrounded by my family who always have sort of this idea – and I’ve heard about their memories of me as a small child helping to care for my grandfather. My grandmother worked in a hospital. She was an administrative assistant in the hospital and I grew up going with her on Sundays to the hospital for lunch. I was just in awe of the folks that worked at the hospital and I knew I wanted to work there from a very early age. I also had a wonderful role model. My aunt is a nurse and a nurse practitioner. And so I had her as a role model and I heard about her stories and the patients she cared for. So I really knew from early on that I wanted to be able to have a career in healthcare. I knew early on that it was going to be nursing for me. I wanted to be able to help, take care of other people. Nursing has been and continued to be not just for me a job but it truly is a passion that I have for helping other people and giving your time to somebody else, that gift of giving to other people. And we get to do that every day in our profession and I think it’s just such a tremendous opportunity for those who are interested in the profession, to think about what area might work for them. It’s just like Lindsey’s in the Emergency Department but there are so many areas in nursing that individuals can work in. So I just think the nursing profession in itself gives us so much opportunity. I went to UNC Wilmington to get my undergraduate nursing degree. I graduated from there and worked as a nurse at Duke Medical Center. I was a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit nurse and while I was working there, I went back and got my Master’s at Duke University. Graduated with my Nurse Practitioner degree and began working as a nurse practitioner. I am faculty now at UNC Chapel Hill and love working with the undergraduate students in our program. I’m also the President of the North Carolina Nurses Association. So it’s important for me to have another way to give back. And now I have the opportunity to give back to my colleagues in the professional organization. So nursing has just been a tremendous part of my life.
Jamie Davis: It sounds like it. Boy, you got a lot on your plate there, Megan, you got to be quite busy.
Megan: Yes, but I have a wonderful support system. The faculties that I worked with are great. The students that I worked with, like Lindsey, are great. And my family are all very supportive. I could not do it all without all of those people in my life who are also helping and supporting me to do the work that I want to do. I’m so lucky in that respect.
Jamie Davis: Lindsey, we’re talking about nurses giving back this month on the show. And one of the things that came up when we were looking at this was one of the projects you became involved with, and it wasn’t around your emergency department background, but actually back while you were in school in a public health rotation. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
Lindsey: Sure. While I was in nursing school, I was assigned my public health rotation at a Senior Center in Durham, called the Durham Center for Senior Life. And their organization – they kind of have a two part organization of what they do. One part they have a daycare services for older adults that family members or caregivers can drop their loved ones off and they can spend the day there. The other part of the organization is just senior citizens in Durham can come there. They can play games. They can be do crafts. They had exercise classes. It’s really a great organization for our senior adult population. While I was there for my rotation, I talked with one of their staff members and somehow the idea of a food pantry came up and I didn’t know they had one. So I asked her some more questions about it and she was telling me that they have a small food pantry but they don’t really get a ton of donations. This was actually around Thanksgiving and she was telling me they’re really in a great need for food. They used to tell us a lot of seniors there they do ask for food especially this time of the year where they are paying extra money to keep their homes and they’re paying money for their medications while the people end up kind of going hungry, not having much to eat. And so that was just a need she told me about. I knew that at school, at UNC, we’re all the time looking for ways to help our community or ways we could raise funds or have some sort of drive that can benefit others. And so I felt there was a need and I knew that the people I worked with at school they would be more than willing to help out. I told Ms. Megan about it and we talked with our ANS group and everybody decided it would be a good idea to come together and have a food drive and donate that food to the Durham Center for Senior Life. It was really great. I think we had over 500 pounds of food donated and over $450.00 of Power Dollars that the Center could use to buy food at a discounted price. That they could give to the seniors that went to the center. It ended up being a great thing. The center was very happy and I think we all enjoyed helping out as well.
Jamie Davis: Megan, what was your experience of having a student come to you and bring this type of opportunity to you? I know as an instructor myself, I always am thrilled to see students stepping out of their comfort zone and going above and beyond but this is just amazing.
Megan: It is. Students amaze me every day. Like you said, they inspire me. They are truly leaders. Our students have such great creative ideas. They are paying attention. They are aware of what’s going on around them. And I think it’s important that we encourage that because that’s what we want to see in our professional nurses, that awareness of what’s going on with others around them. That creates great nursing skills. Lindsey, at that time, was actually a student in one of my clinical rotations and we had worked through that and had a great working relationship and Lindsey was a terrific student. I knew that she had come to the community outreach coordinator for our Association of Nursing Students at Chapel Hill. As a faculty adviser for that group, I had heard about Lindsey’s idea and her connection to the Center for Senior Life. In the past, our school has always done a donation, a food drive at this time of the year. And so I reached out to my faculty colleagues and said, “Hey, has anybody already made plans? We’ve done the food bank in the past. We’ve had some other great opportunities to give back but we have a student who has identified a need from her clinical rotation and I really think this is an opportunity that we want to embrace and take on as an entire school.” So not only were the students that donated but we have staff and faculty at the School of Nursing that also joined forces and donated together as a whole community, the School of Nursing gave back to this clinical site. Really, we have so many partners in our community that worked with us to help our students have great learning experiences and this was just a really small way that we could show them our appreciation and also in turn help some individuals who really had a need. So Lindsey was the driving force behind it. She got all the information that we needed at the school to coordinate the event and then it was truly a very successful event and she really deserves all the credit. So I appreciate that she came forward and saw this need, identified this need and talked about it, brought voice to it. So it was really an amazing opportunity for our school to come together too as a whole community to support this event.
Jamie Davis: Megan, why do you think it is that nurses just do such a good job at being involved in these types of outreach programs? I know that we see nurses involved at all levels in philanthropy, very active in their communities. Does that just come back to the basis of their nursing practice?
Megan: I think a lot of it does, Jamie. But I also think often nurses see in their own practice settings areas of need. And so there’s a little moment sometimes that we have with patients that we hear them talk about the struggles that they’re going through, the challenges that they are facing. That stays with us, I think, all the time. And then when a nurse is working in her child school or a nurse is working as a volunteer in another setting, that nurse still remembers that moment that she had with that patient and those struggles and those challenges and can see those things happening in other areas of her community. So I think we kind of build on those moments that we have to try and think of ways that we individually can make a big difference in our community. Nurses have so many wonderful characteristics and skills and our value set that we learn as sort of we’re coming through our programs and we’re learning about the profession of service to others. When you have that as a foundational core of your profession, it just really makes sense. It’s just a really good fit for us to then be able to say, “In what other ways can I then be of service to others? Whether it’s in my neighborhood, whether it’s in my school system, whether it’s in local government and giving back to the community that I live in and keeping that community clean and healthy.” So there are just many opportunities and I think nurses in so many ways – this is just one example that we’re giving today of a student who saw a need and decided to bring awareness to it. But so many nurses across our country are doing this on a daily basis. We really need to hear those stories because I think those are inspiring to others to say, “Hey, how can I help you out? I’d love to be a part of that.” So I think outreach and community education is something that nurses really contribute to and nurses are already contributing to it. And sometimes we just need to talk about it a little bit more so that everybody knows what you’re involved in and they may want to also be involved.
Jamie Davis: Lindsey, like Megan said, it seems like there’s just so many opportunities out there. What piece of advice would you offer to that nursing student who may be have seen something like this come up in their clinicals or even just in their community in general. There’s so many things on a nursing student’s plate and so many time demands. Is it really something that they should reach out and tackle in spite of their time demands?
Lindsey: I think so. It can be time-consuming sometimes taking on a project like that but it’s very worth in the end. And the project we do with the food drive I, obviously, did not do it all of my own. I saw that there is a need and I presented it to people and my school, other students that I worked with and Megan and they all kind of came around me and helped as well. So we see that there’s a need. There’s some sort of project that you want to tackle. You’re not doing it on your own. You always have people around you that you can call to and that were willing to help you. That I think is very worth the time and the energy to help others. To be always have a good support system. People around you who are willing to do it as well.
Megan: I would add something. I think one of the things that Lindsey brought up was that we also started to talk about the need. And so Lindsey started to talk about with her peers and then we’ve started to talk about it as an association and then we started to talk about it a little bit bigger scale. And so it kind of grew and grew as more people talked about it and sort of word got out there that this was an area of need. And so that’s something an advice I would give to a nurse or to a student nurse who’s interested and their heart is taking them in a direction that they want to get back to one area or one focused area potentially or a need that they have identified, to begin to talk about it. To talk about it with their peers. To talk about it with faculty. To talk about it with their colleagues and to see if other people have noticed the same thing or maybe have an interest in it and to say, “Hey,” to my nurse manager, “Has our unit ever done a service project? Is this something our whole unit could get behind?” And maybe once a year, we determine a service project that our unit is going to sponsor or our school or our class is going to sponsor. So there are definitely lots of ways that students can, again, like Lindsey said, not feel as if they are tackling the whole project themselves but finding a way to sort of gather some community support for the area of need that they have or the focus area that they’re really interested in.
Jamie Davis: It’s interesting when I hear both of you talking about this. It calls to mind just some of the basic nursing skills that we all use all the time in patient care – identifying a given problem, formulating a response to that problem, and then delegating the necessary tasks to get that thing accomplished. And you can do that with a service project and really divide up the labor involved.
Megan: You can, Jamie, and I would say it is the nursing process. It is what we have learned. And so I think taking it all the way through that and not forgetting to evaluate how things went at the end. How did it go for those who are on the receiving end? How does it go for those who were giving? And looking at ways that you may want to improve. And that’s what we do all the time because the nursing process is going back and doing our reassessments if we find that there was an area that didn’t work as well. I think that’s true for anybody who has a potential service project like this or something that their group is coming together to coordinate, taking through those basic skills like you said.
Make sure you check out the entire December, 2013 issue of Nursing Notes, where we look at nurses giving back to the communities around them. You can read the entire issue online at www.discovernursing.com and don’t miss the other Nursing Notes Live episode this month bringing you another panel discussion on nurses giving back. In that episode we’ll have Susan Fletcher, a nursing professor at Chamberlain College of Nursing in St. Louis, Missouri along with one of her current senior nursing students, Sarah Turner. Listen as we chat about their international service project, taking students to areas around the world. You’ll find this and other episodes of Nursing Notes Live in the podcast area on iTunes.