Margui Rutherford

As an undergraduate nursing student, the specialty of care that I liked the least was "psych". After completing my undergraduate degree in nursing, I had the opportunity to work in a number of different settings as a nurse. However, throughout all of them, a couple of themes stand out: concern for the underprivileged and underserved, concern for the mental, social and spiritual welfare of clients and also teaching (whether it was teaching of clients and their families, nursing students or functioning as preceptor to new graduates or orientees.)

After 10 years in providing nursing care to inpatient psychiatric clients, a short stint in the care of post-partum clients cemented in me the desire and commitment to work in the psychiatric and mental health field. The next surprise was that I really gravitated toward the older adult client with mental health needs. I enjoyed this clientele with rich histories of accomplishments and webs of relationships. I was also drawn to these individuals against whom some discrimination was evident. It soon became clear that there was a severe shortage of nurses who were knowledgeable about the unique needs of the older adult psychiatric client and committed to their care at a higher level, that the population of our country was living longer, aging with more chronic health problems and that few nurses were educated at the level that would be needed to meet growing needs of this population. I dreamed of being an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse specializing in the care of the mental health of older adults.

Because I had grown up in South America and was fluent in Spanish, I always had my eyes and ears open to the needs of those who are not like the majority. As in many settings of long-term care, many of the auxiliary personnel are immigrants. I observed some very hard-working people who often did not have all the knowledge that they needed to care for this aging population. The nurses' aides were often not recognized for their contributions to the care of my clients. I began to see that my lifelong concern for cultural competency could be in the education of these auxiliary staff.

As if that were not enough incentive to return to pursue graduate level education, the shortage of nurses was getting a lot of press. One of the reasons that there is a shortage of nursing students is because of the "graying" of nursing faculty. Schools of nursing cannot admit more students, without hiring more nursing faculty.

Thus was born the idea that I could obtain a Masters Degree in a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program and have the tools to care for older adults' mental health needs and teach nursing students as well. Enrolling in the University of Washington School of Nursing has gotten me well on the way to those goals. The scholarship from Nurses Education Funds will be very well put to use as I continue toward making those dreams become a reality.