Easing the Financial Stress for Future Public Health Nurse Leaders

December 16, 2019
By: Kristen O'Reilly

Like in many in the profession, Jennifer DeJordy became a nurse because she wanted to help people. Now she’s taking that passion to the next level by earning a Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in community and public health nursing, working to effect change by promoting preventative care and health education in her community.

“I chose this degree because I felt it had more of an impact on societal change compared to just inpatient care. While inpatient nursing is very important work, educating the public within populations I feel is more impactful for improved health outcomes” says DeJordy, a staff nurse in the operating room at UMass Memorial Medical Center.

She juggles many daily stresses, including working a full-time job and single parenting two children. Fortunately, one potential burden has been eased thanks to a recent $180,000 grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. DeJordy is one of the 14 students in this year’s incoming class to receive full or partial scholarships from the Carpenter Foundation.

“It’s such a great opportunity to have when going back for a degree that contributes to the community in a special way. My son is deaf and still receives services that I would have never been able to afford if it wasn’t for the public health ideals of programs like these,” she says.

Another scholarship recipient, Nicole Pustis ‘06, is a professional practice nurse for the Division of Pediatrics at UMass Memorial Medical Center. She says she learns something from every single class.

“I’ve always been an acute care nurse, but I’ve very quickly fallen in love with treating entire populations, rather than just the individual,” says Pustis. “I have three little girls and work full time so it can be hard to prioritize one’s own needs. This scholarship is a huge blessing.”

Elizabeth Dugas ’18 works as a school nurse and incoming nurse leader for Sizer School, a North Central Charter Essential School.

“As I am delving into the school nurse world, I see the importance of having nurses at the table of government, nonprofits, public health organizations, and others. Nurses must be in these positions in order to protect the public as their main patients,” she says.

“The scholarship gave me the ability to achieve my master’s sooner than I expected, but also to be able to continue in my role at Sizer. It took some stress off and is allowing for study, work, and life to happen all at the same time.”

Nine incoming students were named E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Nursing Fellows, receiving full scholarships of $12,000 for tuition and fees for full-time work (two classes per semester). Five students were named E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Nursing Scholars, receiving half scholarships of $6,000 for part-time work (one class per semester).

Fellows are expected to serve as Community Health Ambassadors—increasing the visibility of the program to future applicants, establishing new connections with past alumni, and supporting community nursing partnerships. Fellows are also mentored by faculty as they design and implement a community health service project that will be completed by graduation. Scholars support the fellows in their implementation of those community health service projects.

The only one of its kind in New England, the Master of Science in Nursing, Community, and Public Health Nursing Specialization program explored the concepts of public health and their applications. With an average enrollment of about 90 students per year, the program expects these nursing leaders to put those theories to practice, requiring 250 hours of fieldwork in the Worcester area. The program is an important pipeline for direct care providers in public health agencies, school departments, and federally qualified community health centers.

“As an institution, we have made a strong commitment to maintaining a productive relationship with the surrounding community and encourage students to take an active role in fostering this relationship,” says Nursing Professor Stephanie Chalupka ’80, Ed.D., director of the program. “Our students are prepared for the responsibility of serving and leading in their community, country, and the world after graduation.”

For more information about the program, contact Dr. Chalupka: schalupka@worcester.edu.

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