Monica is a second year doctoral candidate in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program pursuing a clinical concentration as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Prior to enrolling at UIC, Monica worked as a full-time nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Pulmonary ICU Step-Down Unit. We were struck by her dedication and ability to juggle a full-time job, pursuit of education passion, and life in the Windy City!
What was your first experience with nursing? What influence did this have on your decision to become a nurse?
So to be honest, up until my freshman year of college, I was gung-ho on becoming an orthodontist (considering I hate teeth, I don’t exactly know why this was the case). I wish I had a fabulous story that explained my epiphany to become a nurse, but the reality is that one random day freshman year I vividly remember waking up, calling my mom, and saying “I think I’m going to apply to nursing school.” My mom is a nurse, my aunt is a nurse, and both my grandmas are nurses, so it’s in my blood per se, but I’ve just decided to call it divine intervention.
We’ve recently talked a lot about building a personal and professional brand as a nursing professional, what’s your take on this? How do you do this yourself?
Your personal and professional brand is ultimately how you want the world to perceive you, which is so incredibly important and not nearly emphasized enough in the world of nursing. I’d like to think my “personal brand” revolves around inclusive leadership – through being aware of my own thoughts and behaviors, creating a culture of curiosity and empathy, structuring processes to mitigate bias, and holding myself and others accountable for addressing bias in words and actions.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What gives you energy?
We only get one shot at this crazy, beautiful thing called life! In every single day, there are endless possibilities to learn, grow, and love.
What do you most enjoy about nursing?
As nurses, we truly have the ability to impact people’s lives in unimaginable ways and it is such a privilege to care for them.
What advice would you give someone considering transitioning into a DNP program?
I always tell people one of hardest parts of the whole process is actually applying. Researching programs and writing applications can be so daunting, but don’t doubt yourself for one minute, you absolutely can do it!
How do you juggle continuing to work as a staff nurse while in school? What has been the greatest challenge so far?
I actually really enjoy going to work while in school. It’s interesting to learn about let’s say, cardiology, from a provider’s perspective and then go to work and have a patient with cardiac disease. I’m able to kind of pick the MD, NP, or PA’s brain on their reasoning for ordering certain tests or medications, that way it sticks better in my brain. Something that was super challenging for me in the beginning was balancing my personal life, and I have to give a big shout-out to my friends and family, specifically my twin sister, Melanie, and my boyfriend, Colin, for making me take study breaks to relax and have a little bit of fun.
What motivated you to pursue an additional degree? Do you feel like your previous clinical experience has helped your confidence and knowledge base while in school?
I believe nurses have a central and critical role to play to address the frequent issue of health inequity locally and abroad; we have an ethical responsibility to provide excellent care, to acknowledge inequities, to emphasize that everyone’s life is of equal value, and to push for change. I am not so naïve to think that, I, a single person can solve the kinds of massive problems we have in healthcare, but a single person spearheading many others can. I believe becoming a doctorally-prepared family nurse practitioner will further equip me with the knowledge, skills and experience I need to become a strong activist for health equity.
What do you think is in store for the future of nursing? What about for your nursing career?
I expect nursing to absolutely explode in the next few years. Not only are so many more people obtaining their terminal degree in nursing practice, whether it be a DNP or PhD, but nursing careers now range from informatics to public health to midwifery, offering a little bit of something for everyone. In the short-term, my goal is to provide primary care focused on risk reduction in underserved patient populations and to work with a university hospital to construct processes to combat health inequities in both local and global capacities. I’m not exactly sure where that will take me long-term, but I’m just going to roll with it!
Healthiest habit for work days: Not specific to work days, but I always do 10 minutes of yoga in the morning. It’s energizing and helps ground me for the day
My work mornings usually start with…a giant glass of water
Go-to meal that I pack for work: Salad with some kind of protein – simple but so delish
Favorite thing to do on a day-off: Depends what season tbh..I love being outside in the summer, but Chicago is “Chiberia” in the winter (brrr)
Favorite app: NPR podcasts are my jam
Clogs or sneakers? 10000% clogs!!
If I wasn’t a nurse, I would probably be..a scientist for NASA
Compression stockings, compression socks, or neither? Compression stockings
Puke, poop, sputum, IV starts in babies, we’ve all got our aversion, what’s yours? I very much dislike (some may say hate) packing wounds
Go-to choice of caffeine? Scalding hot black coffee