By Monica Tenhunen, DNP
Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Full-time Lecturer at CSU Long Beach
Alumna of San Diego State
Children have many dream careers. For me, the dream was always to be a nurse. There was something powerful in caring for people – a type of joy that comes from touching the lives of patients and their families in a time of need.
Now well into a career as a nurse practitioner I understand the less appealing sides of the job: long-hours, the loss of patients, mental stress and physical strain. Yet, the most challenging situations often bring the greatest reward.
I once cared for an older adult who was dying of cancer. Her bravery approaching the end of her life was remarkable. Her grown children, however, were struggling with the prospect of losing their mother. They became absorbed in their own fears and emotional turmoil and were not able to provide their mother with the support she needed. As a nurse practitioner, I was able to pull her children aside and work through the end of life issues with them. With a little more information and support, the family was able to pull together during this terrible time and provide comfort to a dying woman.
To me, being a nurse embodies this principle of service –doing what is necessary to provide for your fellow human being. Service drew me into the U.S. Navy, and service pulled me back to a nursing bachelor’s program at San Diego State University. Somehow, I knew for most of my life that I would attend SDSU in the same way that I knew I would become a nurse. I found the campus to be a very welcoming and service-oriented place.
Throughout my educational journey, I have maintained this principle: I am a nurse first. When choosing programs I always chose to focus on practice. I maintained this focus through my master’s at UCLA and doctorate at John Hopkins University. In fact, the appeal of a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) is that the clinical focus allows you to function in the field of nursing while also being able to train the next generation of nurses.
I have greatly enjoyed teaching clinical and lecture classes at CSU Long Beach, and look forward to the CSU’s first cohort of DNP students. I believe they represent a bright future for the field of nursing. As medicine becomes more complex, the perspective and voice of nurses will depend on gaining the knowledge provided in bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate level study. Nurses are the face, voice and supporting hands of patient care. We are there to serve in our patients’ best interest, and to do so we must have knowledge to speak with authority.