Equipped for the Medical Field, Equipped for Caring
Alumna Kerry Mitchell ’08 recently wrote to her nursing professors about her current experience in the medical field. “I love my job as a pediatric nurse on the oncology unit. I often reflect on the education I received at Trinity. I could not have accomplished my dream without it.”
The single mother of two pre-teen sons had already been working as a CNA at Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, for nine years when she enrolled in Trinity’s nursing program. She looked into other colleges and had never contemplated a Christian education. Mitchell, who is Catholic, said she wondered how she would “fit in” with the spiritual community at Trinity, which is largely protestant.
“I came to love the prayer time before every class,” she said. “The environment encouraged me to seek, and I grew closer to God.”
Faith integrated into her nursing classes also affected the way she was dealing with her patients. “Trinity teaches us to treat patients holistically,” said Mitchell. “Today I pray before going into a patient’s room, and I am more open spiritually to them.”
Mitchell spent her eight-week externship at Hope but not on the regular floor where she usually worked with children who were sick and dealing with longer hospital stays. Instead she was assigned to the oncology rotation where she worked with young cancer patients receiving outpatient treatments.
“It was eye-opening to see them outside of the hospital and realize how often they have to come in for treatment,” she said.
This opportunity to “put it all in perspective” was part of the impetus for the leadership project she created during her senior year. “What’s in the Bag?”, the booklet she developed to help parents and their children know how to pack for the hospital in case of admittance, is being published and used by Hope as teaching material and a resource for families.
The idea came to Mitchell when she realized children who came in for routine outpatient treatments were sometimes being admitted and weren’t prepared for longer stays. “A mother might drive a couple hours to bring her child in for a treatment only to discover that the child needs to stay, and she doesn’t have the basic necessities such as her address book or a change of clothes,” said Mitchell.
She also knows the challenges and heartbreak of caring for a sick child, since the survival of one of her own sons, who was born pre-maturely, was uncertain. Today her children have witnessed her overcome many obstacles, including a learning challenge Mitchell discovered while at Trinity. Difficulty with test taking turned out to be more than just the usual student anxiety. With help from Trinity’s Office of Learning Services, Mitchell overcame the obstacle when the office transferred her books to audio and she was allowed extra time to take her exams.
Mitchell said she is glad of the example she has set for her own children, Kyle and Justin—to face challenges and to care for others who might not have the strength to. Her ten-year-old son Justin, along with Mitchell’s mother Maureen Post, recently participated in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation drive to raise money for children with cancer, and he shaved his head as a show of support.
Justin told his mother he wanted to give back to the kids she cares for.
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