Our Nurse of the Week is Kathy Wales, a recent nursing school graduate who decided to leave the Air Force to become a nurse after losing both of her sons to a rare disease. Wales’ took a different path to nursing than most. She is a 15-year Air Force veteran who stopped working in 2009 after her two young sons were diagnosed with a rare disease. She eventually lost them both in the years that followed—one to illness, the other to suicide.
Her son’s deaths inspired Wales to build a new career, which begins next month at a Virginia hospital. Her career path will allow her to help patients work though grief and mental health issues, honoring the lives of her children.
Wales tells washingtonpost.com, “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you have no idea what someone’s going through when you see them walking down the street. You just have no idea. And I really would like to try to be able to make a difference for people like us.”
After Wales’ youngest son, Alex, tripped over a toy truck at home, caused by disorientation, she took him to the hospital for stitches. Alex began behaving even more strangely at the hospital and an MRI showed that he had lesions on his brain and a blood test confirmed a diagnosis of adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). ALD is a degenerative disease, which often strikes boys between ages 4 and 10, and causes the brain an inability to speak, blindness, and deafness. Death often follows within five years of diagnosis.
Wales’ family sought out second opinions and treatment options, one of which included a bone marrow transplant. Alex’s older brother, Zach, was a match, but testing showed that he also had ALD. Alex eventually died at 16 years old after a long, hard seven year battle. Five months later, Kathy started an accelerated nursing program at the East Coast Polytechnic Institute, inspired by the experience she had caring for her sick sons. Three months into the program, tragedy struck again when Zach took his own life at age 20.
After a three-month break from nursing school, Wales came back and finished her degree and will begin as a nurse in the behavioral mental health program at the Novant Health UVA Prince William Medical Center in June. Her mission is simple—she’s living for her sons. To learn more about Kathy Wales, a recent nursing school graduate who decided to leave the Air Force to become a nurse after losing both of her sons to a rare disease, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Deborah Kaplan, the director of nursing and health services for Raleigh County Schools. Kaplan was recognized by the Highmark Foundation for “Advancing Excellence in School Nursing.” The foundation awarded Kaplan the School Nursing Practice and Leadership award in honor of her demonstration of leadership in school health and qualities of care and compassion.
Kaplan has more than 35 years of nursing experience. She started her career as a floor nurse at an area hospital and has served in a number of capacities in the hospital setting, including outpatient surgery and quality improvement nurse management. She heard about school nursing from a colleague and grew interested in pursuing a job as a school nurse before finally joining the Raleigh County School system when a job became available in 1997.
As health care challenges have grown over the decades, so has the need for more nurses, especially in schools. Over the course of her career, Kaplan has advocated for more nurses in the school, and the board office supported the effort. There are now 14 school nurses throughout the county, and most nurses oversee two schools each. Kaplan has also provided “Stop the Bleed” training for school nurses and staff in case of an active shooter and applied for grants to get emergency medical supplies in each school in the county.
The Highmark Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health, well-being, and quality of life for individuals and communities throughout the areas served by Highmark Inc. To learn more about Raleigh County Schools Director Deborah Kaplan who was recognized by the Highmark Foundation for excellence in nursing, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Frank Tyler, a Portland nurse and public health expert who traveled to Africa following Cyclone Idai, which swept through Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe at the end of March. Tyler is a health adviser for Portland-based nonprofit, Medical Teams International.
Tyler spent a month in Beira, Mozambique, one of the hardest hit towns, as part of an assessment team that will help determine health care needs, locate populations most impacted, construct clinics, and provide immediate medical care. After assessing ongoing needs, the organization will recruit 16-20 nurses and doctors from their emergency response roster. Medical Teams International is also working in close coordination with Integral Alliance, Food for the Hungry, Tearfund, and Medair.
An estimated 600,000 people were affected in Mozambique alone, and authorities fear as many as 1,000 people have died. Access to flooded areas is limited or nonexistent in many areas due to damaged roads and infrastructure, and many people are unable to get to evacuation centers, while the only source of electricity remains at the Beira airport.
The main role of Medical Teams International is working to prevent the spread of cholera and malaria, as well as finding ways to provide clean water. On his trip to Mozambique, Tyler carried large bags of medical supplies and communication equipment including antibiotics, diagnostic equipment, personal protection, bandages, and dressings.
To learn more about Portland-based nurse and public health expert, Frank Tyler, who traveled to Mozambique following a devastating cyclone earlier this year, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Paige
Niepoetter, a senior nursing student at Southern Illinois University
Edwardsville (SIUE) who aspires to become a life-changing cancer researcher.
Her drive and academic experiences during her undergraduate years have positioned
her to achieve her dream of becoming a surgical oncologist specializing in
During nursing school, Niepoetter took
advantage of the opportunity to work alongside faculty mentor Chaya Gopalan to
conduct research through the university’s Undergraduate Research and Creative
Activities (URCA) program. Her scholarly work, which studied intermittent
fasting and eating patterns in obese and non-obese rats, has received national
Niepoetter was one of 50 student researchers selected from a pool
of more than 5,000 abstracts to present at the Federation of American Societies
for Experimental Biology DREAM Program’s Experimental Biology 2019 Meeting
She tells advantagenews.com, “Winning the FASEB DREAM travel award was a blessing. Research is a passion of mine, but without proper funding, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to attend the entire conference. This award made it possible for me to attend various sessions of interest, connect with fellow researchers and gather ideas for new research directions.”
Gopalan also spoke to Niepoetter’s achievements: “Paige is a wonderfully focused student who works hard and is incredibly responsible. She has been in my lab for three years, is on two major research projects, and has been able to secure four abstracts and one manuscript for publication. This is only the beginning, as we will be writing several papers by the end of the summer. Paige will surely do amazing things in her future.”
Niepoetter attributes her success to Gopalan’s mentorship, which
helped her develop her passion for research and clarify her decision to apply
to medical school. The URCA program allowed her to go beyond what she learned
in the classroom and develop her leadership skills and gain a sense of
confidence she wouldn’t have without Gopalan’s mentorship.
To learn more about SIUE senior
nursing student Paige Niepoetter and her aspirations to become a surgical
oncologist specializing in breast cancer, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Ayana Red, a graduating senior of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) College of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program who is focusing her research efforts on oral healthcare for geriatric patients. Red noticed that the oral healthcare of geriatric patients was being overlooked in nursing homes and longterm care facilities and decided she wanted to make an impact on care staff’s knowledge of oral care practices in older adults as well as improve oral health outcomes in geriatric patients.
Red developed a set of evidence-based oral care guidelines for staff to follow and created an oral care documentation checklist and guidelines to monitor oral care twice daily for two weeks. She then measured the oral health of participating residents three different times to determine if staff education and the evidence-based protocol would contribute to improvement in the oral health status of residents. Her project was successful in increasing staff knowledge of oral care practices and improving oral health outcomes in this vulnerable population.
In addition to working toward her DNP degree, Red has been a family nurse practitioner for nine years and first became interested in nursing while working as a medical laboratory technician in a local hospital in Mississippi. She experienced the significant impact that nurses make on patient’s lives and decided it was the right career path for her. After earning her BSN and MSN degrees from other programs, Red decided the UAH College of Nursing was the right place for her to earn her DNP.
Dr. Pamela O’Neal, UAH Associate Professor of Nursing, tells UAH.edu, “Dr. Ayana Red is a nurse who will change the health outcomes of older adults who reside in a nursing home. She has developed an evidence-based oral care protocol as a DNP Project, and data indicate oral health can improve significantly in just two to four weeks by attending to oral care twice daily. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Red. She is an amazing person with such a promising future.”
With her new degree, Red plans to become a nurse educator and continue her research in improving health outcomes for geriatric populations. To learn more about Ayana Red’s experience as a DNP student and her research on oral healthcare in geriatric patients, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Kelsey Mumford, a senior nursing student at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin who wants to help Texas become a healthier state. Growing up in the Austin area, Mumford experienced the impact that a top-tier research university can have on a community. After seeing the work UT was doing, it became the only school she applied to, and now she’s helping advocate for better health policies as a nursing student.
Mumford started at UT Austin as a freshman with a double major in nursing honors and biology. Outside the classroom, she was involved as a Forty Acres Scholar, the School of Nursing representative in Student Government, a Texas Coed cheerleader, and the Health Policy Committee chair of the UT Nursing Students Association.
During her sophomore year, the dean of the nursing school sent Mumford to a student policy summit in Washington, DC, which was designed to immerse student nurses in the federal policy process. At the summit, she had the opportunity to apply for a small grant to take what she learned back to UT. Mumford won and designed a three-month campaign to get other students excited about advocating for better health in the Austin community.
As part of the campaign, Mumford organized 70 students who advocated to pass a bill in the Texas Legislature. It was a small policy change in the driver’s license application—instead of checking a box to opt in to being an organ donor in Texas, you would instead have the option to opt out.
Mumford tells News.UTexas.edu, “It was a very small thing, but it could have a large impact on the bigger system. It’s an example of how a health policy on a specific issue can have a chain reaction. Health policy is not just big national bills. These state and local bills are really important.”
Mumford chose nursing school because she has always wanted to help people, and now she sees a future for how to do that on a larger scale. During her junior year, she was awarded the Nurse in Washington Internship and was subsequently able to meet the Texas legislative staffers to discuss issues such as the opioid crisis. The goal of one bill discussed was to provide advanced practice registered nurses with greater ability to prescribe naloxone and other opioid addiction treatments.
Mumford says, “I’m really interested in preventative policies. How can we prevent people from getting sick in the first place? I want to know in the future that I’ve helped Texas become a healthier state.”
Now in her senior year, Mumford serves on the Board of Directors of the National Student Nurses Association, is the founder of the Health Advocacy Student Coalition, and is the program coordinator for the Dell Medical School Health Leadership Apprentice Program. After graduating in May, Mumford plans to attend graduate school and continue health advocacy in her career.
To learn more about Kelsey Mumford, a senior nursing student at UT Austin who wants to help Texas become a healthier state, visit here.