A career in nursing & mentoring
Meet Michael Newell, RN, a home care nurse and mentor at Granite VNA, recently named “Young Person of the Year” by Stay Work Play during their 14th Annual Rising Stars Awards.
Tell us about your educational journey that led you to pursue a career in nursing.
I grew up outside of Keene and went to Conval High School. They had an internship program my senior year. I originally applied to all my colleges as pre-med and wanted to become a doctor. Then after doing this internship program at Monadnock Community Hospital and around the town of Peterborough — I worked with audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, radiologists, doctors, nurses, everyone — I found out that I actually wanted to become a nurse instead of a doctor, primarily because nurses spend a lot more time with the patients, while doctors are a bit more diagnostic and spend more time looking at the data. … I went to the University of New Hampshire for nursing.
What drew you to home health care early in your nursing career, and why did it appeal to you?
I asked for my senior rotation, or immersion rotation, at UNH to be with a home care agency. They paired me with what used to be called the Concord Regional VNA, which is now the Granite VNA. I really loved it. I like being able to meet patients where they’re at, literally and figuratively, getting to know them in their own homes or home environments. I feel that it’s actually very important, in my humble opinion, for anyone who does nursing to do some home care. In hospitals, you’re mostly looking at the patients for what they came in for — their diagnosis. But once you get out into their homes, their environments, you find that all their stories and backgrounds are different. You always know that in the back of your mind, but it’s different when you actually experience it.
Could you describe your approach to mentoring, and what principles guide your mentoring style?
I’ve always loved mentoring. I was a peer mentor for students who were on an exchange trip from China to the U.S. for a couple of weeks every year for about three years in high school. Then, in college, I was a mentor. I’m really drawn to that. My big thing with mentoring is just showing through example. I let the people I mentor follow me around, so they see everything I do, and at the same time I’m educating and talking them through everything I’m doing. I also do that with all my patients.
What personal benefits or insights have you gained from your mentoring experiences, and how have they contributed to your own career and aspirations?
In nursing, we learn about what’s called “the teach back method” — when you teach a patient, you should ask them to tell you, in their own words, what you just told them, so that they understand. Well, I find that I’m basically doing the teach back method to myself when I’m teaching the people I’m mentoring. I find that I’m understanding the material even better and making connections when I’m educating someone else about concepts.
How has your experience in home care, working with a diverse set of patients in their own environments, impacted your nursing career?
In home care, we see patients for basically everything. I call it the least specialized specialty. It’s been very eye-opening learning not only about all these different medical conditions, but also different situations for patients to have.
Looking ahead, what excites you about the prospect of becoming a nurse educator? Are there any other career aspirations you have in mind?
Eventually I do want to go into education, not necessarily in a university setting, but more like what I’m doing now, being a preceptor, educating nurses who are already nurses on different aspects of nursing. For example, I’m really passionate about incorporating LGBTQ education in nursing and nursing programs. I did my whole senior thesis on that in college. I’m actually going to a conference next weekend put on by Fenway Health Institute in Boston called “Advancing Excellence in Transgender Health” with the whole health care team, and I’m super excited about that and getting to grow my knowledge in that way.
Featured photo: Michael Newell, RN. Courtesy photo.