Our Nurse of the Week is Chenai Mathabire, a 35-year-old Zimbabwean nurse and epidemiologist who received an International AIDS Society prize for showing that a faster tuberculosis test could be implemented in health centers throughout southeast Africa. Her work is expected to help save the lives of HIV-positive patients who contract tuberculosis.
Mathabire is the first nurse in her family, a career which has exposed her to dire health crises in Africa. After applying for a job at Doctors Without Borders, Mathabire helped diagnose malnourished children with HIV, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and malaria in Zimbabwe. She also supervised workers who were teaching HIV-positive pregnant women how to protect their children from the virus.
Mathabire emphases the importance of nursing educators, telling NPR.org, “Nursing is often looked down upon and people just think you are there to be the maid of the doctor or do the dirty work. But teachers made me realize that nurses have a big role to play.”
In 2015, Mathabire was recruited for her first research assignment at Doctors Without Borders, work that eventually won her the International AIDS Society prize according to NPR.org. She knew tuberculosis was the number one killer of HIV-positive patients, but she didn’t know that a rapid tuberculosis test existed until she read the study protocol. For two years, Mathabire and her team explored how health clinics and hospitals could implement the tuberculosis test for HIV patients who are more susceptible to the life-threatening infection. With a rapid tuberculosis test, sick patients could begin treatment the same day, often in less than an hour.
Mathabire still works for Doctors Without Borders and is considering furthering her research on HIV and tuberculosis. To learn more about Mathabire and her dedication to nursing research, visit here.
Faye Lewis has overcome many challenges to achieve her dream career in nursing. Single motherhood, deaths in the family, and working multiple jobs have made her journey harder but not impossible for Faye who graduated with her BSN degree last year and recently began a doctorate in nursing program through the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing as part of her long-term goal to become a nurse practitioner.
On September 6, Lewis posted a photo to Facebook showing all of the nametags and work IDs she has proudly worn throughout her journey to a successful nursing career while working jobs to support herself and her son, AJ. The post quickly went viral, inspiring more than 100,000 shares and 4,000 comments of encouragement from across the country, almost all of them from strangers.
Lewis, 27, is currently a registered nurse (RN) working full-time on the intermediate-care unit at Memorial Medical Center. She is the youngest child of four in a working-class family from Springfield, IL. Her journey started over 10 years ago when she got her first job as a KFC crew member at 16 years old. She has also held positions as a housekeeper at an assisted-living center, nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, and now registered nurse.
Lewis says she initially posted the photo of her job badges to help encourage herself. She tells the State Journal-Register, “I was having a rough day. It was the second week of grad school. So the response that the post received was very shocking to me.” Looking at all that she overcome gives her the motivation to keep going. Lewis has faced many challenges along the way from becoming a single parent at age 20 to the loss of her father and three other family members in a house fire in 2013.
Through it all, she remembers her lifelong dream to become a nurse and continues to find a way to pursue that passion. After beginning her career as a CNA, Lewis worked her way up through an LPN program, associate’s degree in nursing, and finally her bachelor’s degree in nursing which she completed in 2016 through Benedictine University.
Lewis admits it hasn’t been easy to be an employee, student, and mother at the same time, but she has had much-needed help throughout her journey from family and colleagues. Cathy Steckel, director of nursing operations at Memorial Medical Center, tells SJ-R.com, “Her story certainly speaks to the passion she has for nursing. She’s an integral part of a great nursing team at Memorial.”
Now on a path to becoming a nurse practitioner, Lewis is on track to finish her doctorate degree in nursing in 2021. To learn more about Faye Lewis and her inspiring career journey, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Brayan Aguirre, a DACA recipient who is pursuing a nursing degree at Harper College amidst uncertainty of what the future holds for those protected by the program. Forced to work harder than most other 20-year-old college students, Aguirre spends his free time helping to support his family through a job at a nearby rehabilitation facility. He is committed to achieving his goals despite the daily uncertainty that comes with being an immigrant who wasn’t born in the US.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was enacted five years ago under the Obama administration. It’s an immigration policy allowing children brought to the United States illegally by their parents to get temporary reprieve from deportation and receive permission to work, study, and obtain a driver’s license. Recipients must have arrived in the US before the age of 16, have a clean criminal record, and be enrolled in high school, college, or the military.
Aguirre’s family moved to Arlington Heights, IL from Durango, Mexico when he was just eight years old and he has never been back to visit. After living in daily fear of the unknown, many of Aguirre’s fears subsided when DACA was created. Being approved for the program meant he could get a job that didn’t pay cash under the table, that he could legally drive to work, and that he could finally hope for a better future in which he didn’t have to live in fear of an unexpected immigration raid.
For most of his life, Aguirre felt that he was at a disadvantage and that planning for the future was a waste of time. But after being approved as a DACA beneficiary, he was accepted into a selective medical chemistry class which confirmed his decision to pursue a career in healthcare. He also explains his family’s support for his career choice in an interview with GoForward.HarperCollege.edu:
“My mom had always pushed me to have an interest in medicine because I had group B streptococcal meningitis as a baby and almost died. The medical profession saved my life, and increasing access to better health care was one of the big reasons my parents moved here. I started to feel like I wanted to give back somehow. I want to take care of people and hopefully have a positive impact on people’s lives.”
DACA beneficiaries don’t qualify for financial aid, so Aguirre set his sights on Harper, an affordable college option thanks to privately funded scholarships that eased the financial burden of pursuing a nursing degree. Aguirre first set out to earn his licensed practical nurse certificate, and he is now finishing prerequisites for a bridge program to a registered nurse degree which he hopes to begin in the spring.
Following an announcement in early September that DACA will be phased out over the next six months, the cloud of uncertainty that Aguirre grew up under has now resurfaced. However, for the time being he has no plans to change course on his path to a career in nursing. He has sought support through a group for Harper DACA students and begun sharing his story to help others understand the benefits and importance of the DACA program.
To learn more about the DACA program and Aguirre’s experience pursuing a nursing degree as a DACA recipient, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Jordyn Pennington, a junior in the Chamberlain University College of Nursing who jumped in to help treat victims after witnessing a disastrous ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair in July that killed one and injured seven others.
The Fireball, an 18-year-old fairground ride that spins and swings passengers in a pendulum-like motion, collapsed due to “excessive corrosion,” ejecting passengers from the ride. Letting her nursing school training take over, Pennington jumped in to help and later shared her memory of the experience with us.
To learn more about Pennington’s lifesaving nursing care following the ride malfunction, read our full interview with her here:
Can you briefly describe your experience witnessing the ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair and what motivated you to jump in and help?
I did not personally witness the accident, my husband did. We were at a food stand when he saw the incident happen and yelled, “Jordyn, that ride just broke and people flew out!” When I first heard what he said, it didn’t click that something that awful had actually happened. I looked around and saw police officers and fair workers all running over to where the accident happened.
Within seconds of the ride malfunction, my husband and I ran to help. I walked up to where the police officers were pushing the crowd back and said, “Hi, I’m a student nurse, can I help?” From there I was led back to where the victims were, given gloves, and sent on my own to help in any way that I could. I knew those people needed help, and I was determined to help as much as possible.
How has your nursing education thus far prepared you to help in this kind of emergency situation?
Chamberlain University has done such a wonderful job of educating students on safety, assessment, and prioritizing. At first, I entered the scene and looked around to see where help was needed. I checked to see if anyone needed CPR (none was needed at the time), and moved on to who I felt would be a priority. When I was working with the patients and the two other wonderful nurses (who I didn’t know at the time were nurses), my Chamberlain training all came flooding back and I started working on instinct. I wanted to help in every way possible so I worked to find the people who needed help the most, and took immediate action.
What triage or first aid skills did you use to help those injured by the ride malfunction?
I helped coach breathing and applied pressure to stop bleeding (along with the other people, two wonderful nurses who I’m proud to now call friends). I held and stabilized a limb that I thought was broken, used communication to calm the victims down, prevented what could have been an additional life or death occurrence, helped hold arms for IV insertion, and helped keep the victims calm and still as much as I could. The two other nurses and I stabilized the victims as much as we could until the paramedics arrived.
While assisting in helping the victims still trapped in the ride, some people tried to manually open the seats that were stuck. From education I’ve received, you never move a trauma patient unless their life is in further danger. Since the people were not in any additional danger, I instructed them to stop trying to open the rides since the patients were safer in place than being moved which could cause further injury. I feel lucky to have stopped what they were doing, and honestly believe that my speaking up potentially saved lives.
What are your future plans for a career in nursing?
Honestly, I feel lucky to just be in a nursing program and in the future, to become a nurse. After this horrific incident, I know now that my heart belongs in trauma. I also have a huge soft spot for oncology as well. I currently serve as the president of Chamberlain’s College of Nursing Columbus campus Oncology Nursing Student Interest Group and couldn’t be more proud to help represent such a wonderful group!
Is there any other information you want readers to know about yourself, your nursing career, or your experience helping during a public emergency?
I’m just your average person who was in the right place at the right time to offer help. I’m a mother of two beautiful kids, and am married (4 years) to my high school sweetheart. Caring for people has always been a passion of mine, and I feel so lucky to be able to earn a degree in a field that I love.
Please lend a hand if you’re able to, and speak up if you know something is wrong. You never know what you’re truly capable of.
Our Nurse of the Week is Ashley Apple, a nursing student at the University of Virginia (UVA) who gathered a team of caregivers to travel to Texas and help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Apple, 38, was the owner of a coffee shop in Arkansas when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the people and homes of New Orleans in 2005. Feeling helpless as she watched the news coverage of the storm’s aftermath, she decided to sell her coffee shop, enroll in nursing school, and never feel helpless again while witnessing the tragedy of a natural disaster.
Apple is currently enrolled in her second year of the UVA School of Nursing’s RN to BSN program which offers working nurses a path to a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She also works as a floating emergency nurse for Bon Secours health system, and leaps in to help whenever she can, like in the case of Hurricane Harvey.
Apple tells News.Virginia.edu, “Katrina really sealed the deal for me. Sure, I loved the things that you love about a coffee shop – the art, the music, the people, the connections you make – but in the end, I was still counting cups. I wanted to do more in service to my community.”
As she watched Hurricane Harvey begin to take its toll on Texas, Apple rallied a small group of fellow caregivers, purchased first aid kits and supplies to bring along, and hopped on a flight to Dallas. Her team included her mother (a fellow nurse), a small group of local nursing students, and Bon Secours staff. The group spent five days making rounds to Houston shelters to provide well-being checks, offering care to individuals with chronic medical conditions, and vaccinating first responders against tetanus, diphtheria, and hepatitis.
During Hurricane Harvey, Apple no longer felt like a helpless bystander the way she had during Katrina. She says, “The most amazing part for me was feeling useful.” Apple loves the work she does, and she is proud to show her two children, ages 3 and 5, how nurses can be of help at the bedside, at the disaster site, and in front of the classroom inspiring new learners. After finishing her BSN, Apple plans to work toward her master’s degree then Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. She has grown to love academia in her time at UVA, and she has a passion for teaching that she is excited to put to use in the future.
To learn more about Ashley Apple and her unique path to a career in nursing, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Calvin Kennedy, a Nurse Team Leader in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) Post-Anesthesia Care Unit. As a two-time kidney transplant recipient, Kennedy joined Team Mountain in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to showcase the power of organ donation.
Kennedy joined Team Mountain to help raise awareness for kidney disease and the power of living, proving that deceased-donation gives recipients a second chance at life. He made the trip to Tanzania, Africa over the summer with 11 other members of Team Mountain who were motivated to bring awareness to organ donation.
Unfortunately, Kennedy was an hour and a half into the last climb when his body wouldn’t let him climb any further. Suffering from torn ligaments in one of his knees and intestinal parasites he acquired while climbing, Kennedy was exhausted and in excruciating pain at 17,000 feet above sea level with only three miles left to go. Disappointed but aware that he would be endangering his teammates by continuing, Kennedy knew it was time to turn around, and that reaching the summit was not the ultimate message he was trying to send. He tells UAB.edu:
“I wanted to show people that, when you do get a transplant, you can live and live well and do things – do great things. And if you donate an organ as a living donor or a deceased donor, you can help someone live a productive and exciting life. I think this accomplished that. I hope I did.”
Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. 35,000 tourists attempt the climb every year, but only about half of them make it to the peak. Kennedy is proud of his teammates who did make it to the summit and the entire team’s efforts to prove the power of organ donation.
To learn more about Kennedy’s experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro alongside Team Mountain, visit here.