Catherine Munene, CCRN, PCCN, BSN, is the de Tornyay Center’s Myrene C. McAninch Doctoral Scholar. A third year DNP student, her project is looking at falls in the outpatient setting. Her faculty mentor is Hilaire Thompson.
All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
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Why did you choose nursing?
Initially, I was going to study computer science, but most of my relatives and friends here were in healthcare. They told me it was a rewarding and fulfilling field and suggested that I should try it out. I decided to take a CNA [Certified Nursing Assistant] class, and then I started working in a nursing home. And that’s when I realized, maybe this is something I really need to be doing. I enjoyed working with the elderly. I later went to LPN [Licensed Practical Nursing] school, then RN [Registered Nurse], and here I am now.
What interests you about working with older adults?
We’re all heading there, you know. What’s better than to help people age gracefully? If I can be a part of that, that’s what I want to do. Taking care of the elderly is really something I’m passionate about.
How did your experience working with older adults help shape your career?
I’ve worked in the nursing home, first as a CNA for four years, then an LPN for three years. Once I got my RN license, I worked in the nursing home for a year, and that’s when I decided to transition into adult critical care. My background in the nursing home is really a good foundation for where I’m at right now. My healthcare career has been mainly with the elderly, and I’m still doing it all these years later. It’s something that I’ve found to be close to my heart. When I was in Kenya, I used to help take care of my grandma too. When I visited Kenya a few years back, she had really changed from how she used to be. She was very frail and with my experience as a nursing assistant, it was easy for me to take care of her when I was there. I feel comfortable taking care of older adults and the decision to pursue adult gerontology NP [Nurse Practitioner] degree was easy.
What has been an unforgettable experience during your time at the School of Nursing?
The most interesting thing so far is clinicals. You learn all these things in class, but until you apply it, nothing really makes sense, for me at least. It’s been enjoyable going to different hospitals and clinics. We’ve been learning all these things about being a nurse practitioner, and then going out there having a clinical experience with providers, it’s been really rewarding.
How has your experience at the school helped you with your career trajectory?
Everything really, because if I didn’t go through this training, I wouldn’t know what to do when I’m out there. I know what to do as a nurse, but not as a nurse practitioner. So the foundation is being laid down in the school of nursing. All the clinical labs and the teaching in the classroom are preparing me to be a confident and efficient provider.
What are your plans after you graduate?
I would want to continue working with older adults. Cardiology and infectious disease are areas that I’m really interested in. Two very different specialties, but very close to my heart.
What’s your research project in the de Tornyay Center?
It’s about fall prevention in ambulatory care settings with a local healthcare organization. They had 308 falls in the last year in all their facilities. I’ll be looking at that to find out what are the contributing risk factors for all the falls. Once I find the area with the most falls, I’ll focus on that area and recommend evidence-based tools to help prevent more falls from happening and reduce harm related to falls.
What interested you about this project?
Falls happen everywhere. They happen in hospitals, at home and in clinics. Although there are many resources available to help prevent falls, falls continue to happen and result in high mortality and morbidity. I want to look at what the research shows regarding fall prevention in the outpatient settings because a lot of the studies that have been done are more inpatient focused. I want to see what’s causing the falls and what’s out there on toolkits that can be used in the outpatient setting.
Why is this project important?
Bottom line, prevent falls in the elderly. People are living longer and fall risk increases with age. For instance, a 65-year-old person who lives to be 90 years old experiences a fall at 65 and ends up wheelchair bound. That can result in worse quality of life, lack of independence and isolation. Falls are preventable. We can play a role in preventing falls and improve quality of life for older adults.