Yale Nursing Matters
Volume 10, Number 1
Spring 2009 through Fall 2009
by Karla A. Knight '77
Serena Cherry Flaherty Yale '99, YSN '06.
As an undergrad, Flaherty (pictured at front, in 1998) rowed in the Yale Crew Varsity boat.
Flaherty graduated from YSN as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in 2006.
In more ways than one, Serena Cherry Flaherty is a Yale graduate and alumna. Not only did she graduate from YSN's Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program in 2006, she also graduated from Yale College in 1999 with a degree in American Studies. In this interview, we asked Serena about being a "double" Yale grad.
Yale Nurse: What made you decide to come back to Yale for your nursing education?
Serena Cherry Flaherty: When I was considering nursing programs, I limited my search to the East Coast for personal reasons. Honestly, I think it was my familiarity with Yale and with New Haven that in the end guided me to choose YSN over other programs. My positive experience as a college student at Yale was certainly a factor in choosing to return to New Haven. The reputation of the nursing school also was part of my decision.
YN: How did you use your knowledge of Yale College and New Haven while you were at YSN?
SCF: Having already lived for four years in New Haven, I think it was easy for me to feel at home when I returned to New Haven to go to YSN. Community service is a huge part of undergraduate life at Yale, so I had gotten to know New Haven beyond Yale, and that helped me a lot in terms of feeling comfortable very quickly getting out into the community. On a practical note, it was easy to know where I wanted to live, and I was comfortable using Yale's buildings, particularly the gym and the library.
YN: Did you know about YSN when you attended Yale College or was it later that you discovered it?
SCF: Even though YSN is just down the street, I had no idea Yale had a nursing school. When I decided to attend YSN and told my Yale College friends I was going back to Yale for nursing school, I was met repeatedly with, "I didn't know Yale had a nursing school."
YN: What would you tell Yale College undergrads now about YSN?
SCF: I think that nursing needs to be part of the discourse not just at Yale College, but in any higher education environment. Among graduating seniors who were thinking about next steps, on-campus recruiting for banking and consulting jobs and law, medical, or PhD graduate programs were the only areas that were talked about. As a result, when I decided I wanted to work in health care, I started out on a track to go to medical school by enrolling in a postbaccalaureate premedical program. It was only after I got away from Yale and into my own life that I found my way to the nursing field.
YN: How did your friends and family respond to your decision to go to YSN?
SCF: It felt like a very lonely decision, and I can't say I was met with a lot of encouragement from my friends. Among my peers from Yale College, nursing has a very narrow scope—it is hospital floor nursing, and floor nursing only. There is no appreciation for the excitement around the diversity of the profession in terms of roles, scope of practice, and work environment. At the risk of being too truthful, most of my friends from college do not view nursing as a desirable or particularly exceptional professional choice. It is viewed, again in general, as second fiddle to the role of the doctor rather than as a complement in a dYNamic health care environment.
YN: How would you recommend that current YSN students become connected with the greater Yale community?
SCF: With respect to the larger Yale community, the experience at YSN can be isolating. Geographically, it's not quite on the medical campus, nor is it near any other graduate and professional schools. I would encourage YSN students not to limit their experiences to the YSN building, and to go to as many graduate school events as possible. They might even reciprocate as hosts so that the presence of YSN students will be felt at the university level, to make it easier to connect with and be a part of the Yale experience. Perhaps YSN could arrange an open house with Yale College career services. YSN students and faculty could present at a master's tea in one of the residential colleges in an effort not only to educate undergraduates about nursing, but also to give YSN a bit more of a presence on campus.
YN: What have you done with your "double" Yale education?
SCF: After graduation from YSN, I worked at Fair Haven Community Health Center in New Haven as a pediatric nurse practitioner doing full-scope primary care pediatrics. I relocated to New York for my husband's job, and I am now going through a bit of a transition period out of full-time clinical work and into more of a public health role. Currently, I am consulting for the New York City Department of Health in the Bureau of Maternal, Infant, and Reproductive Health in the Healthy Teens Initiative, a program that addresses teen pregnancy prevention and access to adolescent health services in low-income communities. I am also working as a nurse practitioner at the Door Adolescent Health Center in New York, a clinic committed to providing confidential health care services to young people ages 12 to 21. We'll see what's next as I piece together work in adolescent health, but I have no doubt that both my Yale College and YSN experiences will lead to an exciting next step.
YN: Have you stayed connected with Yale and YSN?
SCF: Yes. Since graduation from Yale College, I have been active in the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), and through people I met doing community service while at Yale, I am now working on a Yale alumni task force for Newark Mayor Booker's office to address juvenile justice reform in Newark, NJ. The Yale alumni network has been a great opportunity to experience Yale in a more interdisciplinary way than I ever did when I was at Yale College or YSN. I try to get involved in as many alumni experiences as possible, and they are plentiful in NYC. And I also stay in touch with many friends and classmates from both Yale College and YSN.
YN: How does saying "I am a Yale Nurse" resonate with you?
SCF: My recent transition out of direct clinical care has given me time to reflect about my role in nursing. In some ways I feel as though I am leaving behind nursing in the traditional sense. However, I think what is really happening is that I am finding the courage to be the Yale Nurse that YSN faculty talked about during the very first day of orientation. Being a Yale Nurse is about finding experiences to make health care better for the population we focus on, whether that is in the clinical setting, academics, or the public health and policy fields. All of these opportunities are informed by my experience as a Yale Nurse. I am proud of my YSN education and experience, and I am excited to see what the future holds.
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