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Nursing is ‘in the blood’ for three GSN students

Two brothers and their aunt pursue graduate nursing studies at UMass Worcester

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

February 28, 2011

Attending nursing school is a family affair for brothers Nicholas and Brian Bergeron and their aunt Kathryn Raymond, MS, who are all students at the Graduate School of Nursing. Collectively, the three represent the continuum of graduate nursing education at UMass Worcester, and the spectrum of career choices available to advanced practice nurses. 

Nicholas Bergeron, RN, in his second year of the Graduate Entry Pathway (GEP) and Brian Bergeron, a first year GEP student, are both aspiring nurse practitioners. Raymond, already a nurse practitioner, is in her first year of the nursing PhD program. “I guess it’s in our blood,” said Brian, noting that in addition to his aunt, both grandmothers are nurses, and his and Nicholas’ mother is a physical therapy assistant. 

Although each of them pursued other interests before focusing on health care, with guidance and support along the way from family, friends, colleagues and educators—including faculty at the GSN—nursing is now front and center for all three. “This family obviously has a strong dose of the ‘helping others’ gene,” said Associate Professor of Nursing Susan Sullivan-Bolyai, DNSc, who instructs Raymond in the PhD program. 

Sharing a family passion for nursing, Brothers Nicholas Bergeron, RN (left), and Brian Bergeron (right) are both students in the Graduate School of Nursing’s Graduate Entry Pathway. Their aunt Kathryn Raymond, MS (center), is a PhD student at the GSN.

Raymond originally enrolled in college as a music major but left school after realizing the competitive entertainment business wasn’t her true path. While deciding on what to do next, she took a position as a mental health worker at Worcester State Hospital. “I found my calling there,” she said of caring for adults with chronic mental illness. Raymond went on to earn a nursing diploma at Somerville Hospital, a bachelor of science at Worcester State College, and a master of science at Boston University while working in a variety of nursing jobs. Currently a nurse practitioner at Worcester State Hospital, she has returned to caring for chronically mentally ill adults, the passion which led her to nursing in the first place. 

Raymond met GSN Dean and Professor emeritus Lillian Goodman, EdD, and Professor of Nursing emeritus Mary Kay Alexander, EdD, while studying at Worcester State College (now Worcester State University), where Drs. Goodman and Alexander established the undergraduate nursing program before becoming founding faculty at the GSN. 

“They became my mentors and encouraged me to continue,” Raymond said. She enjoyed their support again during her first stint as a GSN student, earning a post-master’s certificate in adult primary care with subspecialties in HIV/AIDS and geriatrics. Subsequently dissatisfied with another PhD program she had enrolled in, Raymond contacted another mentor, GSN PhD Program Director and Professor of Nursing Carol Bova, PhD, RN, ANP, and is delighted with her choice to transfer. “I love this well-structured program, where you’re in a cohort of supportive classmates,” said Raymond. “The faculty really want you to succeed.” 

With a continued focus on geriatric psychiatry, Raymond hopes to use her PhD toward influencing health care at the policy level, in addition to providing psychiatric consultations for nursing home residents. “This population needs a variety of treatment modalities, but medications and antipsychotics are pushed too much,” she said. 

Originally planning to enter the priesthood, Nicholas, now 23 years old, graduated from Providence College in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. After initially pursuing pre-medical studies, 22-year-old Brian graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in studio art. The GEP program, specifically designed for individuals with bachelor’s degrees in disciplines other than nursing, proved perfect for both of them. 

“I always wanted to be some type of servant for people, said Nicholas. “I saw the good my family had done in health care, so it seemed nursing would fulfill me.” Now in the adult primary care nurse practitioner track of the master’s program after completing the first phase of the GEP, which leads to licensure as a registered nurse and then to the master’s degree, Nicholas is enjoying working part-time with the geriatric population at the Jewish Health Care Center in Worcester. But with a growing interest in college health, he is hoping to confirm a Year 3 nurse practitioner clinical experience at the WPI student health center. 

“I recently graduated from college, so I know what it’s like to become accustomed to a new environment at such an important and vulnerable time in your life. Being a young person myself, I think [students] will be able to open up and relate to me, so I think I’ll be very effective in that role,” Nicholas said. “My goal is to be a positive role model and support to my patients, and I think this is a population with whom I can do that the best.” 

Brian believes that Nicholas has already proven himself as a role model. “Watching Nicholas during his first year, I knew how hard he worked and that it could be stressful, but hearing his stories, especially about taking care of patients, really spiked my interest,” Brian said. “I didn’t know much about what a nurse practitioner was, but I like helping people. I looked into it and found that it would be a great role for me.” With plans to follow the adult acute/critical care nurse practitioner track, Brian is enjoying his first experience working in a hospital setting, completing the GEP’s required Year 1 clinical rotation on the maternity unit at UMass Memorial Medical Center-Memorial Campus. “I love working with the patients,” he said. Still with plenty of time to test the waters in different nursing settings, the former art major has been gratified to learn that, no matter where his career takes him, his love of art will play a role. “You can use parts of your artistic ability in nursing too, employing creativity to help patients.” 

Raymond takes great pride in Nicholas and Brian, who grew up close to her daughter and who she calls, “the sons I never had.” Summing up their shared commitment to advancing their educations and nursing careers, she said, “I want these boys to go on and get their PhDs too,” as her nephews smiled and nodded in agreement.