My journey into mental health started in 2001 when I was a freshman at KU trying to figure out what I wanted to study. I knew I wanted to do something that involved helping people, and improving processes that help people. I wasn’t sure what that would be or what kind of degree would help me achieve that. I came across a flyer for the School of Social Welfare at KU and thought, yes, this is what I was looking for!
I received my bachelor’s in social welfare. My last year of school I had a yearlong practicum at the VA in Topeka in the psychiatric department working with Veterans. I did case management mostly, so I was in the community doing home visits and helping veterans get services they needed. I really enjoyed that work. I continued to work as a social worker in mental health, including a stint in the Peace Corps, and working at Bert Nash as a case manager. I decided I wanted to help people in a different way and applied to nursing school.
My first nurse job was in urgent care, and although it was primarily medical, we saw a lot of mental health issues in the patients that came to that clinic. I then got a job at LMH in the ER, and again saw that there were a lot of mental health issues in patients coming to the ER. I started to realize that I enjoyed working with the mental health patients, so I applied for a psychiatric nurse position at Strawberry Hill, which is KU’s inpatient psychiatric facility in Kansas City. I really enjoyed working as a psychiatric nurse, so much so that I decided to apply to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. I am halfway through my PMHNP program at UMKC and will graduate Fall 2024 as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.
Now the WHY I do what I do. The best way I can answer that is in high school I learned about the Peace Corps, and it inspired me. I thought maybe if I get involved in helping others, I can also learn how I can help make changes that will improve the current system, even if it is on a small scale. That’s also why I became a social worker, and now a psych nurse. It is driven by the fact that I know how hard life can be even when you have all the cards in your favor, let alone when you are dealt an incredibly terrible hand. Poverty and mental health issues are not choices, rather a result of a broken system, and that needs to be corrected. These issues are important to me because how can we move forward as a community in a healthy and safe way if we aren’t addressing the issues that are causing harm to our citizens?