Feature Stories 2024: Paige Bernier '24: Research success for this nursing major

CNHS and Honors College
Nursing major and Honors College student Paige Bernier '24 has enjoyed success in her research projects on cardiac self-care, menopausal women and exercise, and food insecurity in the U.S.
Feature Stories 2024: Paige Bernier '24: Research success for this nursing major
Paige Bernier '24: Research success for this nursing major

Third-generation Corsair is the 5th member of her family to attend UMass Dartmouth

When New Bedford, MA native Paige Bernier '24 first visited UMass Dartmouth, it was long before her first-year student orientation. As the granddaughter, daughter, and sister of three generations of  UMassD alumni, Bernier has been immersed in Corsair culture all of her life.  
Her sister, Renée '23, also holds a nursing degree from the College of Nursing & Health Sciences (CNHS) and minored in Global Health. Bernier's mother, Stephanie '92 (biology), was a member of the first UMass Dartmouth class, while her grandparents, Lorraine and Stuart Lawrence, graduated from the university's predecessor institution, Southeastern Massachusetts University (SMU).  
Bernier, who is minoring in aging & health, couldn't wait to start college. She enrolled in UMassD's early college dual enrollment program as a sophomore at Nazarene Christian Academy in New Bedford and began attending UMassD classes at age 15. 
Now an Honors College student, Bernier has achieved success in academics and research. She was selected by CNHS to present her research on cardiac self-care at the Eastern Nursing Research Society Conference in Boston in April. An abstract of this research will be published in Nursing Research, a top-ranked nursing journal. She completed an independent study of menopausal women and exercise with Associate Professor Marybeth Vieira Sosa that they hope to publish in the American Nursing Journal. She also participated in a research project on food insecurity during the Bridging the Atlantic program with the University of the Azores last spring.  

Sister and mother of Paiger Bernier '24
Renée '23, Stephanie '92, and Paige Bernier '24 are all UMass Dartmouth alumni. Renée is also a CNHS graduate.

UMassD experience 

Why did you choose to attend UMass Dartmouth? Did your family have any influence? 

"I chose UMass Dartmouth due to its reputable nursing program and its proximity to home. My grandparents, mom, and sister all attended the school and had a great experience. 
"I also took classes here since I was a sophomore in high school. It was intimidating starting at 15 years old, but the students and professors were always warm and welcoming. I felt that I was learning so much that it helped elevate my high school education as well." 

What do you think makes UMassD special?  

"UMassD is special because of the community within it. It is amazing how connected everyone is. Even the students who come here from far away seem to integrate so well. I am honored to follow in my family’s footsteps by graduating as a Corsair." 

CNHS experience 

Why did you decide to major in Nursing? 

"I honestly was unsure what I wanted to do when entering the nursing program and chose it because I knew I wanted to work closely with people. I am so grateful that I chose this path because it's exactly where I want to be." 
An aging & health minor, Bernier said she's always loved working with older patients and can apply her minor in any nursing field. She is currently certified as a CNA and works with many older trauma patients in a Step Down Unit at St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford.  
"I've learned a lot about the physical and psychological conditions that affect many older people," she said. “I’ve also learned about habits that promote healthy aging and the importance of implementing these habits early.”

Tell us about a memorable experience you've had as part of your nursing education.

"My favorite memory of my nursing education so far was my study abroad experience in the Azores, Portugal in the Bridging the Atlantic Program. I had the opportunity to go to the island of Terceira, and the students and faculty of the University of the Azores truly made our stay amazing. It was my first time out of the country and working on the food insecurity project was inspiring."  
Nursing students from both countries created a research poster, "Food Insecurity in the U.S. and Portugal: Creating Global Community Partnerships" that was presented in the Azores and at UMassD's Nursing Scholarship Day. Bernier's cohort worked with the Marion Institute in Massachusetts to produce a video about ways to fight food insecurity.  

Research experience

What did your research involve?

"I had the opportunity to do my APEX Project (required of all Honors College students) with Dr. Sethares on the topic of 'What affects self-care behaviors in heart failure patients'. I analyzed an existing data set to determine what factors affect self-care behaviors in heart failure patients. We studied self-care through medical and symptom management and we examined what behaviors help. 
"Analyzing the results and piecing them together was my favorite part of the project because some of the results were unexpected. We learned that those with other chronic diseases are better at self-care. I am proud of the work Dr. Sethares and I have accomplished together and I look forward to presenting it." 
In her independent study with Sosa for her minor, Bernier studied what motivates menopausal women to exercise. She examined whether doctors are educating women on exercise and learned that, despite cardiovascular disease being the main cause of death for menopausal women in the U.S. and physical activity proven to reduce this risk along with menopausal symptoms, this population continues to have low physical activity rates. 
Sosa has taught Paige in three classes and her independent study. "Paige demonstrates extraordinary maturity, intelligence, motivation, professionalism, and eloquence," Sosa said of her student. "It is apparent that her drive for excellence comes from her natural ability to gather and analyze large amounts of information in a meaningful manner. Paige shows leadership, collaboration, and skill abilities beyond her age and will be successful in nursing and in life." 

Stuart and Lorraine Lawrence, SMU graduates
Paige Berner '24 with her grandparents, Stuart and Lorraine Lawrence, who graduated from UMassD's predecessor institution, Southeastern Massachusetts University.

Honors College experience 

What have you enjoyed in the Honors College? 

"I have had a great experience. I have used the Honors Annex to study and having access to the private study room when all the rooms are booked during finals week has been a life saver. I have also had the opportunity to enhance my learning experience through Honors courses or through honoring my nursing courses."

What has been most helpful for you? 

Honors staff has been the most helpful. I was able to go to my advisor Kristin Kadlec and she has always been available to help me whether my issues pertained to Honors or not. I am grateful for this and the relationship I’ve built with her because whenever I’ve run into issues with scheduling my classes, she ensures that we figure it out."

Future plans 

What advice would you give future Corsairs? 

"I advise future Corsairs to enjoy your time in college because it truly flies by. I am looking forward to starting my career, but I know that I’m going to miss seeing my friends and learning every day. I would also advise taking advantage of the supportive staff around you if you’re struggling with the transition from high school, because they truly are here to help."

What area of nursing would you like to pursue? 

"I would love to pursue a career in maternity nursing whether it be in labor & delivery, postpartum, or in the NICU. My goal is to become a travel maternity nurse."