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May 20, 2019

Denise K. Ferrell: Curiosity leads my journey

May 22, 2019

Denise K. Ferrell is the associate dean for community engagement and public service and the director for diversity and inclusion in the College of Nursing. Ferrell is a registered nurse and holds a doctorate of nursing practice.

Curiosity leads my journey in healthcare. At age 16, I landed my first job working with medical records at a general county hospital. Down the hall was the emergency department — a level 1 trauma center. In my position, I ran back and forth to the emergency department to pick up and deliver medical records for patients.

While in the emergency department, I saw people from the community whose needs weren’t being met. Led by curiosity — I asked how they ended up there. Discovering the needs of patients and their families is where my love for the community began.

Public service is important to me because as nurses, we owe the public reliable, trustworthy, safe and consistent healthcare.

Nurses are good at identifying and assessing problems. We’re always taught to ask why, when, where and how. We question where the gaps are in practice and the community. We ask what a nurse can do to make things better in others' lives.

To recognize the individualization of each patient, we need cultural sensitivity. We need to be culturally aware and to engage in conversations with people who may not look, think or act like us. Moving forward with this level of awareness can take place in a safe environment, where we can establish respect and trust with one another.

In fact, there are more similarities than differences amongst all of us.

Personalized Care with ADPIE

As an instructor, I give assignments, case studies and scenarios that drive us back to face the realities that our environment is changing. As nurses, we teach that there is a process for understanding situations called ADPIE.

Assess the situation
Diagnose the situation
Plan how to take care of it
Implement it
Evaluate it

Although ADPIE may seem like a linear process, once we are at the evaluation phase, we may decide to re-assess the situation, and the process starts all over again.

Hypothetically, if there are two patients in the same room with the same diagnosis, do they look the same or are they different? Moving forward in their care, it lends the question of how do you treat each patient? They both may have different health choices and health beliefs. Some of their behaviors are shared and learned within communities — others are cultural norms.

While both patients have the same diagnosis, I believe nurses should provide individual and personalized care. In other words, you can’t put all of your patients into one box. When caring for patients, we need to use a holistic approach and examine them mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Haiti Nurse Foundation

Several years ago, I presented a poster at the Elsevier Education, Teaching and Learning Conference. While walking through the conference hall, I saw the Haiti Nursing Foundation booth and spoke with Hilda Alcindor R.N., Ph.D. (h), FAAN. She is the dean of the Faculte des Sciences Infirmieres de Leogane, Haiti’s first 4-year BSN program. After many years of being a nurse educator, I felt driven to utilize my skills internationally. I made plans to visit FSIL and educate their nursing faculty on classroom teaching techniques.

Before taking the trip, I read the history of Haiti to understand better who the people were and the health of their nation. I read about the devastating earthquake of 2010, and their current mortality and morbidity status. What I did not realize was this would be the first of many trips to the world’s most impoverished country.

Nobody has to pay me to do this. It is my service to the world. It’s my way of giving back to those in need. I provide skills that are sustainable, that can be used every day and can be built upon to improve the health of Haitians. They, in return, provide competent nursing care to their fellow citizens.

I currently serve as the vice-president of the Haiti Nursing Foundation Board and will tentatively assume the presidency at the end of 2019.

My Will to Empower Students

More than a year ago, I accepted a position at Michigan State as the RN to BSN program coordinator. Appointed as associate dean for community engagement and public service and director for diversity and inclusion, I am excited to take on this new position at Michigan State University's College of Nursing.

In this role, I will explore opportunities to serve the citizens of the state, nation and internationally through service experiences for students, faculty and staff. Furthermore, I will investigate opportunities for research, scholarship and nursing education.

It is my will to empower Spartan Nursing students to lead in a multi-racial, multi-ethnic world.

Reused with permission from the College of Nursing