“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination”

Patient Advocacy

Surrounded by all my “good luck” charms

           My program that I have created is Patient Advocacy. My program includes Health Science, Psychology and Social Work. I was a nursing major, but I had a medical problem that has affected my short term memory. I felt I wouldn’t be a successful nursing major because of it so I removed myself from the program to save me from wasting both time and money. I created this program because I have cancer and I can’t even explain how much Patient Advocates have helped me through my tough times. Plymouth State University doesn’t offer a major that meets these specificities.

            I have wanted to be a nurse ever since I can remember.  I have a passion for helping people of all ages. Nurses are the most caring, selfless kind of people out there. I worked my tail off in high school to get into nursing school. I had never been more proud of myself than when I received that acceptance letter. I completed my freshman and sophomore year of college here at Plymouth State University and was so excited that I would be starting clinicals the winter of my junior year. The summer of 2015 turned my life completely upside down. I was working at Meredith Marina as an office assistant and the gas dock girl on the weekends. I had been having constant migraines that would just not go away. I was essentially living off of Excedrin. I would have to leave work early at least twice a week. This went on for about three weeks and then I just couldn’t take the pain any longer. I went to the eye doctor to see if my prescription had changed, causing the migraines. During my exam he noticed that there was fluid behind my eyes. They called my PCP to set up an appointment, but the soonest they had wasn’t for two weeks. In the meantime, I went home. I decided to Google my symptoms. The constant migraines that would get worse at night when I would lay down and the sensitivity to light led me to the description of a brain tumor. I told my family that’s what I had. Of course, they kept saying “Tiffany Lynn, you do not have a brain tumor.”

              On August 5th, 2015 I just couldn’t deal with the pain. I went to the emergency room at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth. I had an MRI and they did in fact see a mass. I was quickly med-flighted to Mass General Hospital in Boston. I was rushed into the ER where they did my first surgery, which I was awake for. Obviously, I was numbed, but I could hear the sawing and drilling of my skull. They inserted an EVD, which is an external drain so that the fluid could drain off of my brain. The doctors said your brain can reach up to a level twenty-five in pressure and I was at a level twenty. They don’t know how I was functioning “normally” with no seizures or passing out. I had three more surgeries following; a biopsy, removal of the tumor and a permanent shunt. A ventriculoperitoneal shunt is placed in the ventricles of my brain that relieves pressure off of my brain by draining the fluid. The shunt runs all the way to my stomach. The biopsy revealed I had Stage IV, Glioblastoma. I spent the entire month of August there. When I came home, I had to go to Dartmouth Hitchcock, Norris Cotton Cancer Center five days a week for radiation and took chemo pills every night. After six weeks, an MRI showed the tumor had grown back as if I hadn’t undergone a single surgery. They had to make a quick decision and decided to put me on IV chemo every two weeks and high dose chemo pills every six weeks. As of the first week of August 2016, they discontinued my treatment plan because my tumor has shrunk 70% and was stable for a constant three MRI’s. I suffer from short term memory loss because of all the surgeries. I decided to not continue with Plymouth State University’s nursing program because of it. I then was faced with, okay, what should I do now? I decided to join Interdisciplinary Studies at Plymouth State University to create the perfect program for me.

            During my treatments, there was always a patient advocate who would check on me during my appointments. She would ask me how I was feeling, what I was thinking about what I was going through and told me about numerous events that I could attend with fellow cancer patients. She was amazing through my entire experience. Then it clicked, I decided that is what I was meant to do.

            I am a caring, kind, selfless person who wants nothing but the best for every single individual. I constantly am wearing a smile on my face, despite everything I have gone through. To become a Patient Advocate, specifically for cancer patients, is now my dream. I have lived it. I know what it’s like. And because of my personal experience, I feel I would be such a great Patient Advocate. Since I have always wanted to be a nurse, this is the next best thing. I will still be working in a hospital, just doing something a little different. And, who knows, maybe someday I will regain my short term memory and will be able to complete nursing school and become an R.N.

            Plymouth State University has an abundance of different programs, but not one that fits my program. Sure, there are Health Science majors, but that doesn’t touch upon the aspects on being a compassionate caretaker. My plan is to combine Health Science, Psychology and Social Work courses to complete my Patient Advocacy Program.

            I decided to include the following courses for my program. Genetics for Nurses and Disease, Safety and Environment, which I feel go hand in hand with each other. Genetics for Nurses touches upon outcomes of what can happen biologically. Specifically, the roll genetics plays during development and how. For example, when there is extra genetic material from chromosome twenty-one it can cause Down Syndrome. Disease, Safety and Environment, I am currently taking now and we go over many, many different types of diseases, and how you can prevent them. Also, these two classes outline the Social- Ecological Model of Behavior Change. This model has four spheres of influence. It starts with the Environment, specifically policies and places. Then moves into the Culture norms around you. After that, it goes to Inter, which consists of your surrounding peers and social networks. The last part of this model is Intra. Intra is your own personal knowledge, beliefs and skills.  Sex and Family Living Education I felt to be a good course to take and include in my program because it went over all of the STD’s. We learned the anatomical structures of the female and male genitalia I feel are very important to know because there are many different kinds of cancers in that area. This course also explains the different social networks of people as well as interpersonal relationships.  Human Anatomy and Physiology is so important for my program. We learned all the bones in the body and all the veins and arteries as well. That’s important for my program because when patients describe certain areas of pain, I will know where on the body it’s coming from. I felt Perspectives on Aging would be a great course to take because the majority of cancer patients are older. I am currently enrolled in the course and have already learned so much about the process of aging. I chose to take Introduction to General Psychology, Life Span and Development Psychology and Adolescent Psychology because they help understand the human brain and body. They also explain how the body develops. I included Mathematics and the Humanities as my QRCO because it touches upon the human race and how the two go hand in hand. This fall I took Health and Society. It’s a good addition to my program because it taught about different health care systems all around the world, which I most definitely encounter being a Patient Advocate. As my TECO, I chose Applied Nutrition for Healthy Living. It’s really important for not only cancer patients, but the entire human race to practice a healthy diet. For cancer patients though, for example you have to really pay attention to your sugar intake because cancer in fact feeds off of sugar. I have yet to take Drug Behavior, but I think it’s a great class to include because not only do most cancer patients receive many different types of chemo, patients can also have a previous drug addiction that needs to be dealt with. I know when I was going through treatment I was under a lot of stress. So, I decided Stress Management was a good course to include. I can give patients different techniques to relieve stress. Also, cancer patients go through psychological stress. Psychological stress is having emotional, mental and or physical pressure. If cancer patients are under distress it just leads to a lower quality of life. Learning and knowing stress management techniques and relaxation have a much higher quality of life. As my WRCO, I chose Technical Communication. There is a lot of technology that is used in hospitals, specifically computers. It will be really important for me to know how to properly use a computer and the program that they use.

            My program is interdisciplinary because it combines courses from three different fields of study: Health Science, Psychology, and Social Work. In order to be a patient advocate you have to combine different subjects because you have to be knowledgeable about science, the human body and how to work with families and people. This program will prepare me for my future because this is what I want to do with my life. I want to be a patient advocate for cancer patients. This program is specific to exactly what I want to do.


Interview with Dr. Annemarie Conlon

        On February 10th, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Annemarie Conlon. This is her first year teaching at Plymouth State University. Dr. Conlon enjoys walking for fun. She actually has a current goal of 7,000 steps a day, but is soon upping her goal to 10,000 steps a day. She loves her Fitbit. A fun fact about Dr. Conlon is that she has been performing hypnosis since she was 14. She has earned four degrees. She received her BA in Psychology from New York University, her MBA from Pace University, her MSW from the University of Houston and her PHD from The University of Texas at Austin.

        She teaches health and aging courses. What inspired her to teach these types of course was that she worked at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The patients she worked with had lung cancer and were mostly 65 and older. She explained how she is currently working with Dr. Kathy Patenaude in Nursing and Dr. Barb McCahan in Health and Human Performance, to develop a new program at the University; Healthy Aging Initiative. She said the biggest challenge thus far in working with other professors outside her field is time and having conflicting schedules. She said a benefit is that each profession brings in new information to learn and know. So, she is in the process of doing interdisciplinary work, but she actually used the term Interprofessional. She did have some course recommendations for students who major in her department, to take outside of her department. She suggests biology and the psychology class that talks about death and dying. Also, students who want to run an agency should definitely take business courses. If they want to work with children and families, they should consider some criminal justice classes.

        I then asked her if she could combine her field of study with another, what would it be. She responded with nursing. She is a health care social worker and she thinks it would be the perfect combination. Dr. Conlon also feels that this combination will allow students to provide all around adequate care to all patients. I then ended with asking her how she works with non-academics in her life and she said that because she in new to the area that all her friends are academic at the moment. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Professor Conlon and really hope to see Healthy Aging become a program here at Plymouth.

Interdisciplinary Is the Way to Go

The Web We Need to Give Students

By Audrey Watters

Do I Own My Domain If You Grade It?

By Andrew Rikard

Colleges Must Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge

By Vartan Gregorian

          Why must colleges force us to pick and focus on a specialized degree? When applying for college you are required to pick a specific major in which you have end goals of what you will be doing after college. For example, if you major in education, it must mean you want to pursue teaching of some sort. Well, what if you wanted to combine, say education, the wilderness and art? Here at Plymouth, there is no major that surrounds all three of those aspects. Interdisciplinary Studies allows to combine many different “majors” to create a desired field of study. I feel that there is not one time where you are only using one specific discipline. There is always more than one.

          These three readings touched upon this idea. Specifically, in the Gregorian reading, it touches upon how professors should be able to include other disciplines than the one they teach because in some ways they all interconnect. Team teaching would be SO beneficial to students. We do not want to live the Home Depot theory. Which is, when you go into Home Depot looking for electrical supplies and have a question, usually, the only person(s) who can answer your question is the one working in that department. In life, we want to be knowledgeable of more than one specific topic.

          One of my favorite takeaways from these readings is that we should really rid the term GenEds. I so agree with this. Students are thinking of GenEd classes as fillers and are not really caring or thinking about what they actually are. Instead, they should be looking at how they can expand their desired choice of field study’s knowledge. In the Gregorian text, when describing interdisciplinary “Better understanding of the relationships and connections between all fields that interact and overlap (Economics and Sociology, Law and Psychology, Business and History).”

          I don’t know anyone who isn’t connected to the world through social media and technology. I am such a fan of domains. Domains provide a place for our work to essentially live forever and can be accessed when need be. Students are allowed to take ownership of their work, where they can be credited for it. These readings really explained how interdisciplinary is so much more beneficial than the opposite. I don’t see how combining different fields of study couldn’t be anything but a positive decision.