Bethany Phillips: Mission trip to Haiti

Bethany Phillips '16 traveled to Haiti as part of the College of Nursing's Community Health Nursing course.

dec 2,2016

Year: Class of 2016
Major: Nursing
Minor: Aging & Health
Hometown: Rowley, MA
Service: Mission trip to Haiti
Research: Stroke symptoms and risk factors
Achievements: Honors Program, Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honors Society
Next steps: Career as a registered nurse, then doctoral study

Passion for elderly healthcare

I became interested in nursing in high school when I won an award for my achievements in an anatomy and physiology class. I was blown away because I’d never won an award before.

My love for older adults sparked my interest in the aging and health minor. My grandfather passed away when I was young, and my grandmother has always been in and out of hospitals.

Elderly people are nostalgic, full of wisdom, and just flat out adorable. I’ve always loved communicating with them. Because the “baby boom” generation is reaching age 65, the older population is increasing at an astounding rate. There aren’t enough healthcare workers, institutions, or healthcare policies and insurance to meet their rising demands. This will be a huge crisis if not taken care of.

Bethany Phillips - mission to Haiti

Mission trip sparks personal growth

If you haven’t been on a mission trip to a third world country, you need to put that on your bucket list. Haiti really opened my eyes and showed me that every day is a blessing. I’m now so grateful for everything I have, and I don’t take life for granted. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about the people of Haiti and what they left me with.

If you really want to envision my experience, think about families sleeping under tarps in rainstorms. Think about people waiting for hours and standing in line even longer to get medical care. Picture children walking naked and barefoot to get water from the wells.

Then visualize people smiling at you everywhere you turn. Picture the beautiful beaches, and feel the emotion surrounding the earthquake memorial. Hear the singing children. That’s Haiti.

The trip really sparked personal growth in me, and I can’t wait to go back.

Researching stroke symptoms and risk factors

My honors thesis is titled “Recognizing Stroke Symptoms and Risk Factors in the General Community.” I’m very interested in the disease because it’s an acute problem that can lead to lifetime deficits.

Carrying out my own research project was a phenomenal educational experience. It showed me that you can do anything you put your mind to. If you had told me five years ago that I’d be a graduate of the honors program with a 50-page thesis paper, I’d have laughed.

There was one point where I wanted to quit. My advisors pushed me to keep going, and I’m so thankful for that. They taught me that if you see a problem in the world, you need to do the research and go out and change it.

“Nursing is what I was meant to do”

I’ve had multiple experiences as part of clinical rotations and as a student nurse technician that have made me realize nursing is what I was meant to do, but there’s one moment that stands out in particular.

I was walking through a parking lot in my scrubs when a man stopped me. He told me about how he has a disability and has been in and out of hospitals. He mentioned his respect for doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers in general, and he thanked me for all that I do.

I think of that memory any time I'm having a hard day and need a little reminder as to why I’m meant to be a nurse.

UMassD teaches goal attainment

I’ve participated in other activities at UMass Dartmouth including snowboarding with the Ski and Snowboard Club, going on trips with the Outdoor Club, and volunteering walking dogs at the Lighthouse Animal Shelter.

The most substantial lesson I’m taking away from UMassD is to always go after what you want. I set a goal to make the Chancellor’s list, and I did that. I set a goal to be inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honors Society, and I achieved that. I set a goal to be a commencement student speaker, and I accomplished that.

UMassD has started a snowball effect of goal attainment that I will continue after graduation.  

Career in intensive care

I’m currently completing my 120-hour senior mentorship in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Rhode Island Hospital, which has surfaced in me a love for surgical procedures and complications.

My plan is to work as a registered nurse in an intensive care unit at either Rhode Island Hospital or in the Boston area. In a couple of years, I’ll get my doctorate degree and become either a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant.

More information

College of Nursing Home

College of Arts & Sciences: Aging & Health

News: UMass Dartmouth nursing students travel to Haiti for experiential learning opportunities


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