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Graduate School of Nursing class speaker Heather Lovelace reflects on honor of serving patients

New orthopedic nurse practitioner will focus on doors opened, lessons learned

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

June 03, 2021

Heather Lovelace, MS, FNP-BC, RN, has ventured into student leadership, medical aesthetics, global health missions, health care policy and advocacy, teaching, and more during her time as a Doctor of Nursing Practice student. The Graduate School of Nursing Class of 2021 speaker will reflect on her and her classmates’ multifaceted, often-unexpected experiences during their years training together when she speaks at the 48th Commencement exercises on Sunday, June 6.

“Before you start the journey of graduate school, you think you have an idea of what it will be like, but it ends up being a totally different adventure than you expect,” said Lovelace. “It's not an easy path in health professions because everything you're learning and doing impacts the lives of humans, which is a stressful thing. But it's important and valuable work and a huge honor to be able to do it.”

Lovelace has already begun her post-graduation employment, staying in Massachusetts as an orthopedic nurse practitioner working at Trinity Health of New England Orthopedic Care Center in Springfield.

Her role comprises orthopedic physical assessment, diagnostic and therapeutic treatment approaches to acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions, including joint injections, casting, bone stimulation monitoring, postoperative care for multi-joint and tendon-related surgeries, along with tracking patient progress through physical rehabilitation post injury.

Experiencing a knee injury while playing basketball in college forged Lovelace’s appreciation for sports medicine, orthopedics and physical rehabilitation. The California native graduated from Whitman College in Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology in 2015.

“I feel connected to the orthopedic patient population because I can relate to what it's like to be in pain and go through your own rehabilitation process,” Lovelace said. “Having that patient connection is an interest I’ve had for a long time.”

Previously, in her first position as a master’s-level nurse practitioner, Lovelace enjoyed learning about medical aesthetics at Ideal Image Advanced Medical Spa in Shrewsbury. Graduate Entry Pathway DNP students earn their Master of Science degree at the end of their third year of study. Medical aesthetics is a health care as well as cosmetic specialty including cryolipolysis, magnetic muscle stimulation, ultrasound guided collagen stimulation for face lifting and laser hair removal.

Following the earlier GEP milestone of becoming licensed as a registered nurse after the first year of study, Lovelace worked as a staff RN at the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center. She developed leadership and clinical skills at the federally funded health center in Worcester while providing care to diverse patients, many socioeconomically disadvantaged and medically underserved.

Lovelace has explored her interests by running courses on health policy, quality and patient safety as a one of the first GSN teaching associates, a newly created position at the school. A member-at-large on the Graduate Student Nursing Organization, she was selected by Joan Vitello, PhD, dean of the GSN, to attend the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Student Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. Her scholarly capstone project implementing a nutrition education intervention to address food diversity for young children and related health care needs of underserved migrant communities built on her experience with the UMass Medical School Dominican Republic Batey Health Initiative in La Romana.

She was awarded a GSN Community Service Award in 2019 for this work.

“Working in global health highlights the overall need to analyze health from a ‘one world, one health’ perspective and realize we're all in this together and to recognize your place in that in terms of ethics and equity,” said Lovelace. “Getting a DNP reinforces the importance of continuous improvement. Learning how to systematically approach that is something I can use wherever I go.”

Related stories on UMassMed News:
Commencement events celebrate accomplishments of Class of 2021 at UMass Medical School
Dominican Republic Batey Health Initiative continues addressing health care needs of Haitian migrant communities
Heather Lovelace working as aesthetics nurse practitioner; serves in new teaching associate position