The connections I am building with my colleagues across disciplines have truly made the Brackenridge fellowship a special experience. My cohort has been a great support system throughout this process, but this week we were tasked with expanding beyond this year’s fellows and reaching out to past Brackenridge recipients. Rebecca Nock graduated from Pitt in 2013 and is a great alumna to reach out to because she was one of the first nursing students to participate in the fellowship. Within nursing there are many possible career paths, but most people think of nurses solely in the clinical setting at the bedside or as nurse practitioners. However, some are unfamiliar with the opportunities as a researcher. According to Rebecca’s Pitt Commons profile, she now works as a Data Analyst for HealthVerify. This company was developed after a researcher at a conference in 2015 asked, “Why is it so hard to connect patient data across all of the potential sources?” I am interested to hear about Rebecca’s role as a data analyst for this company, and what they are doing to make patient data more accessible. Because I am looking at hospital utilization defined as emergency room visits and hospital admissions, technology that HealthVerify is creating could be especially useful. If one of the patients in my sample visits a hospital outside of the UPMC network, I may not have access to their hospital encounters, so I have to exclude them from my study. This has implications on the generalizability of the study and how representative the sample is of the whole population of head and neck cancer patients.
My road to applying for the Brackenridge Fellowship has been a three-year process starting with my Honors nursing seminar with Dr. Kathy Pushkar. I had explained to Dr. Pushkar that I was interested in transoral robotic surgery after an exciting summer working at Medrobotics Corporation where they had developed a flexible robotic scope for Head and Neck surgeons. Through her connections at the school of nursing, she introduced me to my mentor Dr. Marci Nilsen. I cannot thank Dr. Nilsen enough for her patience and the time she has dedicated to helping me. Along with her appointment as an assistant professor in the Department of Acute and Tertiary Care at the school of nursing, she also holds a secondary appointment in the School of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology. She developed and coordinates the UPMC Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Clinic. At this multidisciplinary clinic, patients meet with nurses, surgeons, speech language pathologists, dentists, and physical therapists all in one visit. Her areas of interest for research focus on identification, treatment, and development of interventions focused on managing symptoms and treatment-related effects for survivors. She consistently advances nursing science, and she is an incredible role model for a young nurse like me. There are so many opportunities at a large public University that students don’t take advantage, so I would encourage anyone to reach out to professors, clinical instructors, and academic advisors. If they don’t know how to help you, they will find you someone at the University who can.
Because I will be entering my senior year this fall, the job hunt is approaching quickly. While I have loved the time I have spent in Pittsburgh, I am looking forward to moving to another city after graduation. Pitt nursing has and continues to prepare me for a position at any top-ranking hospital across the country. However, when applying to jobs in a new city, the more connections you have, the more likely your resume will get to the right people. I hope to connect with professionals in the Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago, and Boston areas. The scholar mentors at the Honors college and the school of nursing faculty will be great resources for resume editing and through services like Pitt Commons, I will be able to connect with other alumni like Rebecca.