Feature Stories 2022: Chelsey Silva '22: From the Air National Guard to the Honors College

Commencement story, nursing major
Feature Stories 2022: Chelsey Silva '22: From the Air National Guard to the Honors College
Chelsey Silva '22: From the Air National Guard to the Honors College

A six-year member of the MA Air National Guard, nursing major Chelsey Silva plans to work as a travel nurse

Also known as Staff Sergeant Chelsey Silva, this New Bedford native served in the Massachusetts Air National Guard from 2015-2021, managing more than 50 F-15 pilots at Barnes National Air Guard base in Westfield, MA. A first-generation Honors College student and nursing major, Silva plans to pursue travel nursing, a growing field that allows nurses the freedom of travel and assignments.

What drew you to nursing? Do you feel well-prepared for a nursing career based on the education you received here?

I have always had this desire to help people. My experience of going to a trade high school (Greater New Bedford Regional Technical High School), where I picked medical assisting, as well as my work experience in healthcare reinforced this desire to become a nurse.

I chose UMass Dartmouth for the prestigious College of Nursing & Health Sciences. Although challenging, the nursing program has been highly rewarding, and I have met amazing individuals who will be in my life for years to come.

 I believe my education from UMass Dartmouth’s College of Nursing & Health Sciences, coupled with my work experience, have prepared me with the skills needed to succeed as a nurse.

How was your experience as a transfer into nursing?

I transferred into nursing after my freshman year of being undeclared. It was challenging for several reasons, such as the difficulty of the nursing major, transferring in as a sophomore, the prestigious reputation of the UMass Dartmouth College of Nursing & Health Sciences, and starting college later than my peers. Thankfully, I had an amazing advisor, Kristin Kadlec, who helped me through the whole transfer process and always offered words of encouragement.

Where were your clinicals?

St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Charlton Memorial Hospital (labor and delivery unit), Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence (pediatrics), SouthCoast Vaccine Clinic in Dartmouth and Fall River, Mercy Meals in New Bedford (community nursing), Woodland Commons Covid-19 Testing (UMass Dartmouth campus), St. Anne’s Wound Care Center in Fall River (community nursing), Bradley Hospital (psychiatric unit) in East Providence, and Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River (telemetry unit).

I provided urgent care, obtained and recorded patients’ vital signs, intake and output, blood glucose, and ensured accurate specimen collection; provided hands-on nursing care under direct RN supervision; administered patients’ scheduled medication; and preserved their dignity and confidentiality.

All these experiences have helped to reinforce core nursing skills and being comfortable providing care for a diverse group of patients.

How was your experience in the Honors College?

Very challenging but rewarding If you are willing to put in the time, effort, and commitment needed to be successful. I enjoyed the small class sizes which enables more one-on-one time with the professors, more dynamic discussions, and the opportunity to interact with different majors.

For my APEX Project, Covid-19 and the mental health of nurses, I identified the differences between pre-pandemic and current levels of self-reported anxiety, depression, and stress within the nursing population working in southeastern MA. Forty-two participants responded to my study and reported statistically significant increases in levels of anxiety, depression, and stress during the global Covid-19 pandemic. I also examined work-related factors contributing to the increases, which were identified to be short staffing (93%), nurse-patient ratio (62%), loss of control over workflow (62%), lack of support (58%), and lack of resources (55%).

Did you hold a job while you attended college?

Yes, I worked at Hawthorn Medical Urgent Care in Dartmouth until my junior year and then Beth Israel Plymouth Emergency Department my senior year. I worked anywhere from 20-30 hours a week. At the urgent care facility, I obtained patients’ vital signs, prepared and assisted with various medical procedures like orthopedic casting, endometrial biopsy, colposcopy, and wound care. During the start of Covid, I worked full-time in the medical garage to help with the increase in patients for Covid-19 testing.

At Beth Israel, I assisted patients with activities of daily living, performing EKG/ECG and aided with resuscitation of patients in cardiac arrest.

Commencement story, nursing major
As an air crew flight equipment technician in the MA Air National Guard, Staff Sgt. Chelsey Silva flew jets to test pilots' survival gear. She is pictured with Col. Jim "Comet" Halley.

Can you share why you joined the military and what your experience was like?

I have always had a desire to be a part of something bigger than myself. The military was an amazing opportunity for me—it helped me grow into the person I am today. Throughout my time in the Air National Guard, I have been put into positions of leadership.

[The Guard] encouraged a sense of autonomy and confidence while also helping me to develop skills such as time management, attention to detail, communication, and working in high-stress environments. I worked in a high-stress job that required extreme attention to detail managing over 50 F-15 pilots flying equipment and gear at Barnes Air National Guard Base in western Massachusetts. Through this job, I was afforded the opportunity to travel abroad and to other parts of the country.

All the trips I went on were training missions with our NATO allies or other Air Force fighter units. My job was to support the mission by maintaining the pilot’s gear. 

What are your post-graduation plans?

To work as an RN in an emergency department for a few years and then switch to travel nursing with my best friend, who is also graduating from UMass Dartmouth’s College of Nursing & Health Sciences. I am interested in travel nursing because it allows me the freedom to travel while still working. Travel nursing is a growing field due to the short staffing that has been exacerbated due to Covid-19. 

Juggling my academics, life, job, and the military was extremely difficult and at times I did not think I would be successful, but with a great group of colleagues, family, and friends as a support system, I was able to succeed.