May 21, 1999

Bold move pays off for Nursing graduates

Bold move pays off for Nursing graduates


Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D. (right), dean of the School of Nursing, presented Clare Thomson-Smith with the Founders Medal at commencement. (photo by Donna Jones Bailey)


Cristi Campbell and her nine-month-old daughter, Kaylin, at last week's graduation. (photo by Doug Campbell)

In 1995 Cristi and Rich Campbell made a bold move. They quit their jobs, sold their house and moved from Missouri to Nashville.

Neither had a job. But the pair had a plan.

"The ultimate goal was getting done with school," recalls Cristi. "I was accepted to Vanderbilt for the fall of '96. Although I knew it was unlikely that a spot would open up, I asked to be placed on the waiting list for the fall of '95."

The couple met while attending Missouri Western State College and graduated in 1991. He worked in occupational health, while she received her master's at the University of Missouri in 1993. They married later that year and she began her job as a psychiatric social worker.

"I meant to become a nurse the first time around," Cristi admits. "I enjoyed social work too, but I just got sidetracked. I knew I'd go back. It was just a matter of when."

Once she was accepted to Vanderbilt there was little discussion. They packed up and moved south. They eventually found jobs in their respective fields while waiting for Cristi to start school.

In the meantime, Cristi heard about a new program designed for occupational health nurse practitioners during an orientation session. It just didn't get any better, she thought.

Rich also wanted to return to graduate school, but wasn't sure what path to take. He had applied to several schools, which would mean a temporary separation for the couple.

"I wanted to go into occupational health and do workers' compensation," Rich said. "Everything was really working out. It was sort of eerie.

"Normally things just don't work out like this," he said. "We felt that we could be successful and we set our minds to it. It was an opportunity."

Cristi agrees:

"It was scary, especially with no immediate jobs. But the entire experience was a good one."

Although the couple completed their coursework last August, they returned to campus during graduation ceremonies last Friday. Rich carried the Vanderbilt School of Nursing banner during the procession.

"We could not have planned all of this any better," Cristi said. "As August 1998 graduates the school has a special ceremony for us – a pinning ceremony. Ten days later our daughter Kaylin was born. We had a goal and didn't waste any time with our plans."

The pair was enrolled in the Bridge Program, which allowed them to complete their master's in Nursing degrees in a two-year period. Going to school together made the challenge a little easier.

"The first year we had all of our classes together," Cristi said. "The second year we had a few of the same classes. Because we had fewer distractions and since we were going in the same direction it was not bad."

Cristi now works part-time as a family nurse practitioner in a family planning clinic. Rich works at a medical clinic specializing in urgent care and occupational health.

The Missouri couple joined 217 nursing school graduates during commencement services on Alumni Lawn where the university-wide ceremony was held. They then proceeded to the Stadium Club, where the group received their M.S.N diplomas and academic hoods from Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Nursing.

The breakdown of degrees is as follows: 38 Acute Care Nurse Practitioners; 75 Family Nurse Practitioners; 14 Gerontological Nurse Practitioners; 10 Health Systems Management; 14 Neonatal Nurse Practitioners; 9 Nurse Midwifery; 4 Occupational Health/Adult Nurse Practitioners; 10 Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners; 5 Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and 40 Women's Health Nurse Practitioners.

Of this group, two have double majors.

One of those graduating with a degree in Nurse Midwifery was Margaret McKinney. Although she was raised on The Farm in Summertown, Tenn., McKinney said growing up there did not influence her career choice.

She received her B.S.N. from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga in 1997, but while she was in school, she came to a crossroads.

"I was in nursing school and couldn't see myself being a nurse," she recalls. "I thought that I had made the wrong career choice. After I saw the first birth, I completely fell in love with it. I went back the following summer, but I still didn't know nurse midwifery was what I was going to do."

In 1997, she came to Vanderbilt and chose to become a certified nurse midwife.

"I was really proud of the nursing heritage and wanted to get a nurse midwifery degree so that I would have options to practice in various settings," she said.

"I was raised in a community where midwifery was part of the culture. I never had the concept that births were high risk or needed a hospital for deliveries. I think that background helped me trust in the natural process, but my nursing degree taught me how to provide care and how to determine the appropriate use of intervention when necessary."

She passed the boards in February and recently accepted a position as a graduate nurse midwife intern with the faculty nurse midwife practice at Vanderbilt, a division of University Community Health Services Inc.

The group received a grant from the Kellogg Foundation to open a free-standing birthing center. It will be the first of a statewide network of birthing centers in Tennessee. The East End Women's Health and Birthing Center will open this fall at the corner of North 10th and Russell Street.

"During a birth, it takes all my mental, physical and spiritual strength," McKinney said. "It takes all of me and challenges all of what I am. The celebration of birth is a life changing moment and I am a part of that."