Showing posts with label nursing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nursing. Show all posts

Friday, March 8, 2024

Inspiring student travels path from dropout to nursing school

By Ed Pierce

When Rachel Doughty of Windham attends her first nursing class at Southern Maine Community College this fall, it will be the culmination of a journey of perseverance and determination.

Rachel Doughty speaks during the Maine Adult
Education Association Legislative Breakfast
in Augusts on Feb. 29. COURTESY PHOTO
Doughty, 22, shared her story at the annual Maine Adult Education Association Legislative Breakfast in Augusta on Feb. 29 and when she finished, there were few dry eyes in the room. She dropped out of high school, operates a small cleaning business called Dream Clean Maine, and is the mother of a young son, but decided that she wanted to become a nurse and would do whatever it takes to achieve her dream.

Not being comfortable as a high school dropout, Doughty pushed herself and adjusted her schedule to be able to earn her HiSET high school equivalency diploma with her family’s encouragement.

“I dropped out of Windham High School halfway through my junior year in 2018. At the time, I was in a sticky, tough spot in life. I was battling myself at such a young age and I made poor decisions and held onto bad relationships with the wrong crowd,” Doughty said. “Once I did drop out, I knew I made a mistake and would later regret it. I loved school, I loved my friends and teachers, and I actually missed school and even doing homework before I started going downhill with it. I was in a few honors classes, with English/Writing being one of my favorites. Once I dropped out, I regretted it all when I acknowledged how good I was doing before things got tough in my personal life.”


She was devastated when she noticed her classmates posting graduation pictures on social media only a year later in 2019.

“I was completely distraught and devastated. I cried for days and avoided opening Facebook or Instagram to see everyone’s photos,” Doughty said. “I wanted to be on that stage in my cap and gown with them all so bad. After the years went by and I had my son, Levi, I decided I needed to get my diploma to let go of that regret and push hard to make something better out of my regrets. I told myself that I needed to get my diploma and let it lead me to bigger and better opportunities in life.”

Enrolling with Windham/Raymond Adult Education, Doughty started by taking pretests in math, science, social studies, language and writing to determine what she already knew or remembered from high-school and to help give her teachers an idea as to how ready she was for the actual HiSET exams. She successfully passed all of her pretest exams and was then able to begin real testing for the HiSET.

"I passed every single real HiSET exam on my first try, except for math,” Doughty said. “I had to go back and do some tutoring in math with Jessica Conley before trying the math test again. On my second attempt at my math exam after all the tutoring, I passed.”

According to Doughty, every single one of her family members has supported her new-found interests with nursing and finishing school.

“On top of my own determination to get my HiSET, I had my mom and dad encouraging me the most,” she said. “My siblings and my friends were there to cheer me on. My dad, Dale Doughty, has been a firefighter for Windham nearly my entire life and he has his EMT credentials. I think his passion for helping others made him excited for me and my interest in the medical field. My mom has always been very supportive of me, and she always tells me that she believes I have a purpose that would surprise us both. I think I’ve pretty much nailed that by pursuing nursing.”

She says the decision to study nursing was easy because she already possesses a passion for helping others.

“I’ve always loved science and health, and when I begin to think about how incredible the human body is and how it functions, I am completely fascinated. The idea of being someone who plays a role, big or small, with helping someone to heal feels incredible,” Doughty said. “Becoming a nurse was never anything I imagined I could do without the help of Adult Education and the wonderful programs it has to offer. The free college program has proved to me that my life still has full potential, and I am capable of redeeming myself and creating a better future for my son and I.”


Her friends agree that Doughty has done the best that she can, and they are proud that she’s continuing to keep moving forward and upward in life, she said.

“Most of my friends also attended Windham High School and remember the time I dropped out. I know for a fact that they would all agree how I’ve come such a long way since dropping out. Back then, I never would’ve believed any of these great opportunities could happen to me. I never would’ve believed just how much I could grow and thrive out of the holes I had fallen into,” Doughty said. “I certainly never would have thought I would ever be in a position to pursue nursing and actually feel good about it. I hope I’ve surprised my friends as much as I have surprised myself with my accomplishments. I hope it inspires others who feel like they’re stuck or that they ‘can’t do that thing they’ve always wanted or dreamed of’ when I have truly discovered that you really can do anything you set your heart and mind to. I want to continue to prove to myself that I can be something incredible and I can do incredible things, all because I haven’t given up, and that’s all it takes. Just never give up and you will get exactly where you want to be.”

Her most endearing memory from her Windham/Raymond Adult Education journey is the satisfaction of receiving her diploma.

“That feeling I had when I passed all of my HiSET exams was exhilarating. It felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders, coming from all of the regrets I had after dropping out and finally making it so many years later,” she said. “I will also never forget when Tom Nash invited me to publicly speak at the Legislative Breakfast event, and writing my own speech about my journey because he and Jessica Trimmer said I was an ‘outstanding, star student.’ I loved attending that event, it was at the Senator Inn in Augusta, the event started as early as 7 a.m. so Windham/Raymond Adult Education offered to pay for my own room within the Senator Inn so I wouldn’t have to drive the long commute so early in the morning. I will never forget any of the gratitude the people and program showered me with and the honor that I felt.” <

Friday, November 20, 2020

IIA’s Academic Elders act as patients so nursing students can learn real-life clinical assessment skills

The Academic Elder volunteers brought out the
life experiences, frailty and struggles of the
characters portrayed in the scenarios so
students could learn to see the person and
not just the illness or disease. As a result
of the volunteers, there was improvement
in students' verbal and non-verbal
communication, fostering a positive and
effective nurse-client relationship.
By Lorraine Glowczak

Officially established a little over one year ago, the Institute for Integrative Aging (IIA) at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine (SJCME) seeks to address loneliness and isolation experienced by many older adults by offering a variety of intergenerational activities. Programs such as Silver Sneakers®, online Coffee and Conversations, a hiking program, a book club and much more have been and continue to be successful. The recent launch of the Academic Elder Volunteer Program was implemented for the first time this fall with nursing students and also proved to be a success.

“We had four amazing Academic Elder volunteers who virtually joined Professor Nancy Bonard’s Nursing Fundamentals Course, acting as ‘standardized patients’ IIA Director Heather DiYenno said. “This opportunity allowed the nursing students to practice their clinical assessment skills along with general communication and interviewing techniques in a simulated environment.”

DiYenno and Bonard have been collaborating on several projects that support both the nursing program at SJCME and IIA. Due to the restrictions from the COVID pandemic, the Academic Elder Volunteer Program filled a gap in hands-on learning.    

“The nursing program’s clinical sites for long-term care have been part of the curriculum, working directly with patients at long-term care facilities,” Bonard said. “However, this semester, the nursing students were not able to visit the facilities due to the risk of coronavirus transmission.”

Learning how to communicate effectively with the patient and create a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship would not have been fulfilled if not for the help of the Academic Elders.

“While there are ample opportunities for practicing skills on mannequins [such as bathing and transferring clients], there was a need for students to be able to practice therapeutic communication skills,” Bonard said. “The discussions included many important themes for nursing care, such as caregiving, the unique needs of older adults, transitions of care, and holistic care of clients.”

“At the conclusion of the four-week period, both volunteers and faculty noted that there was improvement in students’ verbal and non-verbal therapeutic communication, fostering a positive and
effective nurse-client relationship,” DiYenno said.

Although the students were not available for an interview, they expressed to both DiYenno and Bonard that they were grateful to talk with a real person, being able to ask better questions that included feedback as a result. This included proper and effective ways of communication – knowing what to say and what not to say to a patient. They also said this portion of the experience was one of the favorite parts of their clinicals.

The Academic Elder volunteers, who had heard about this opportunity through email communications with IIA, share some of their own experiences. Lyman and Darnell Stuart were two of those volunteers.

“Meeting with Nancy and Heather was all that it took to see what a wonderful experience this would be for their students,” Lyman Stuart said. “I love helping anyone further their education in whatever they may be learning, and I found this to be unique.”

Darnell Stuart, who is very engaged in theater, was looking for ways to be involved now that theaters are closed. Having had many years of work experience in senior health care, Darnell believed she was able to contribute to the students’ learning. But she also learned something as a volunteer.

“I was reminded of the term, ‘youth is wasted on the young.’ This is not so true - it is not wasted. It is they who keep us young if we allow them to grow.”

A third volunteer, Donna Leitner decided to be an Academic Elder because she had many positive mentors throughout her educational and professional career and thought this would be an opportunity to “pay it forward."

“I’m hoping my involvement afforded students a ‘live elder’ (albeit by videoconference) to practice
communication and assessment skills,” Leitner said. “Most importantly, I feel I brought out the life experiences, frailty and struggles of the characters portrayed in the scenarios so students could learn to see the person and not just the illness or disease.” 

“Watching their growth caused me to ‘up my game’ in portraying the character as realistically as possible,” she said. “In some instances, I had to do research on the character’s illness or the formal medical assessment scales/tools that might be utilized in their questioning.”

There may be more opportunities for both older adults and students next semester.

“Nancy’s class will continue with a different curriculum and there is a possibility to work with them again this spring,” DiYenno said. “Due to limitations of clinical placement, these students would have otherwise lost a whole year of clinicals without the help of the volunteers.”

IIA is also having discussions with other departments at the college including Social Work and Communications about other Academic Elder opportunities. And it seems from the positive feedback from the first set of volunteers, IIA and the professors will not have to look far for more Academic Elders.

“Their enthusiasm is infectious,” Lyman Stuart said. “I am already looking forward to the spring
semester when we can do this again.”

For other older adults who may be thinking about volunteering their time as an Academic Elder, Darnell Stuart has this to say:

“I do hope more people get involved. The students deserve what each of us can give them and we deserve the joy of helping them grow.”

For more information on the Academic Elder Volunteer program, contact Heather DiYenno at the Institute of Integrative Aging by email at or by phone at 207-893-7641.<