Kristen Patten (3rd Quarter, 2007)

by Josh Barsch on August 20, 2010

3rd Quarter, 2007
Nursing Scholarship Winner
Kristen Patten

“I am a native Seattle-ite and a nursing student at Seattle University and work part-time as a nanny. I decided to go into nursing after experiencing being a birth and post partum doula and helping in a hospice care situation. A doula is a labor and post partum support person and advocate for women and their families. Both ends of the spectrum of life are what have fascinated me for years!

I am returning to school after having worked in a broad range of occupations and have decided that having a degree would really serve me well and help me to both create a better lifestyle for myself and facilitate me being able to volunteer my skills in ways that I look forward to. I encourage all “older” students who have made the life changes neccessary and taken the financial debt on to return to school to apply for this scholarship and others like them. There is help out in the world and the time spent filling out applications can be very rewarding!”

A Portion of Kristen’s Winning Essay:

Kristen Patten

“I want you to help me keep my baby,” my client “Dora” stated upon getting assigned to my caseload of thirty at the AIDS Service Center where I work as a case manager. Dora had been using crack-cocaine for 17 years, been in and out of jail and had eight children all of whom are in foster care. She was now five months pregnant, HIV positive and had come to ASC for assistance in finding a detox program, prenatal care, HIV medical care, parenting classes and outpatient substance abuse treatment. In three months I was able to secure everything Dora needed to keep her baby.

In my continued work at ASC I find that this case is typical in that all thirty of my clients have, in one way or another, been disregarded by a system that was designed to help them. My clients enrolled in case management services because they were lacking the attention necessary for one who has a triple-diagnosis of addiction, mental illness and an HIV diagnosis. After working with HIV positive individuals for almost 8 years I have continually seen the importance of holistic and comprehensive approaches to care.

I have been fortunate to live a life rich with dynamic relationships and broad educational and occupational experiences. I have chosen a number of inspiring friends and mentors in a number of fields and have reaped many rewards from a variety of professions. My innate and nurtured character qualities have proven to be well-suited for helping professions that have an emphasis on health and clear communication.

I have also been influenced by growing up with my mother as a nurse, both what she shared about her work life, and how being a nurse shaped our home life as a family. Some of the formative and foundational experiences that lead me to want to be a nurse are at the two ends of the spectrum of life- being both a birth and post partum doula and some hospice experience with an elderly friend.


In pursuing my education and experiences in being a doula, my focus has been on empowering women to make informed choices in health care and personal well-being. I have learned the power that choice makes in the present scenario and post reflection. Accurately reading a situation, thinking proactively, to be alert for when I needed to consult and refer, and helping to setting up a positive outcome to a stressful decision or action have all been part of my role as a doula to the women and their families whom I have been with.

During a birth and dealing with pain, fear, and change in a desired outcome have been continual themes and challenges that I find rewarding. I was focused on being attentive to the mother’s physical and emotional needs, to respect her relationship with her care provider, to honor her connections and communication styles with family and other support persons, and to anticipate the needs of the newborn. While contending with a newborn, her own body changes, and a multitude of conflicting information and opinions, the post-partum period for a woman is tricky and I have been happy to offer emotional support, educational sources, and efficient housekeeping skills! Being of service, being in a mode of compassion and ready attention has been profoundly gratifying.

I have seen many of the attending nurses and other care providers express their fulfillment in their work. I have witnessed and participated in the healing power of touch and humor and in encouraging women to be connected with their body and actively seeking what defines a healthy life for themselves. Supporting the support people in a mother’s world- acknowledging their contributions, involving family and friends in the education process, and encouraging their participation in her journey has shown to me the amazing ways that a family and community can thrive, and how those positive benefits helps a mother feel confident, capable in her strengths, and comfortable with asking for what she needs.

Becoming involved in the care of a friend in her last months of a fight with terminal pancreatic cancer was a big shift in my life. I was one of many people who would help her at home, and I also accompanied her on a week long trip to New York to visit a doctor. It was time for her of great hope and fear, debilitating pain and the healing presence of love from family and friends. She was a real live wire with an incredible zeal for a full and creative life. Witnessing her body breaking down and her heart-felt trials with grappling with her mortality and unfulfilled dreams were very affecting. I encouraged her to be mindful of her accomplishments as she faced all she still wanted to do, both honoring her achievements and being with her disappointments. I hadn’t anticipated how necessary and difficult it would be to establish emotional boundaries for myself, setting limits for what I gave her as gracefully as possible.

Taking care of myself, and later appreciating that much more fully for any care-taker, was made abundantly clear. I found myself to be willing to withstand the discomfort of witnessing impending death, and to balance the disturbing presence with a lot of compassionate listening, humor and the desire to be present in the moment. My mother was a great role model, both as a nurse and as a mom. She expressed her satisfaction and pride in her work and her joy in raising a family. Her commitment meant I had to be independent- often taking the bus to the hospital after school, but I and my whole family experienced collaborating about responsibilities and accepting challenges to be satisfying and inspiring. We each were encouraged to do meaningful work. I enjoyed listening to my mother and her colleagues make jokes about one another and discuss science and health care. Even before I really understood the content, I understood it was important and helped other families. She showed how she could change positions and professional focus within the scope of nursing with success. Over more recent years, I have learned more from her about inspiring connections with colleagues and memorable situations with patients that were funny, poignant, or challenging, and have an even deeper appreciation for her contributions to healthcare and communities.

My lifestyle and occupational choices have centered around communicative, dynamic relationships, creativity, and working as a team. I appreciate the challenges and rewards of working with opinionated people and being in situations that call for both quick decision-making and tact. I consider myself incredibly blessed for the rich and rewarding friendships and family bonds that are in my life. Within my circles of friends and peers, we explore diverse cultures and forms of artistic expression. Wellness on many levels is constantly sought and vigorously discussed. We are encouraging of taking risks, and being willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

I am deeply moved and often humbled by stories involving great sorrow and loss and the healing that occurs with time and loving attention. I offer empathic and sensitive reading of emotional states and my own earthy sense of humor. I use my ability to shift from being lighthearted to serious in appropriate situations and often utilize my desire to see things from different perspectives in communication and conflict resolution. I have a commitment to health and wellness and a strong desire to be of service to families and communities. I have been very fulfilled with being in school and have proven my dedication to learning and quality relationships with scholastic achievements and a life history that reflects these values and interests.

Copyright 2007, StraightForwardMedia.com. All rights reserved.

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