Committed To Caring
When Francesca DiPaula’s sister was seriously injured in an equestrian accident, she spent two weeks in a trauma center. The doctors were great, but it was the nurses who were on the front line of her recovery.
DiPaula decided then and there to pursue a career in nursing, and has committed herself to gaining the practical experiences that will accelerate her career path.
As a student at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., she completed a nursing program in Carroll County’s Career & Technical Center, earning certification as a nursing assistant and a geriatric nursing assistant. For the past three years, DiPaula has augmented her college studies with hands-on learning.
She spends weekends working with geriatric patients through a home health care provider in Westminster. She volunteers at a Chestertown retirement facility with her classmates involved in HOSA-Future Health Professionals. And she has spent the past two summers as part of a research team at Johns Hopkins Hospital, investigating the causes of pediatric asthma.
At Hopkins, she screens young asthma patients who have been to the ER more than twice in the past year, and conducts home visits looking for environmental clues. Toxins such as second-hand smoke, mold and mildew spores, and pest infestation often trigger severe asthma attacks, she says.
“That’s been an absolutely incredible experience. I love working with children,” says DiPaula. “I was also able to shadow doctors working in the Harriet Lane Clinic at Hopkins, which serves underprivileged children in East Baltimore. I am definitely interested in continuing to work with pediatric patients.”
Now in her final semester at Washington College, DiPaula reflects on the friends she’s made and the mentoring she’s received. She is particularly grateful to Professor Aaron Krochmal, whose classes in comparative anatomy and physiology are an essential part of the pre-nursing curriculum, and to Professor Rosemary Ford, the faculty advisor who shepherded her through the 3:2 nursing program. By next June, DiPaula will have completed two Bachelor of Science degrees—in biology and nursing—within the span of five years.
“The 3:2 program is ideal for me because I can get everything completed ahead of the typical RN timetable,” she says. “And since I’m already thinking about graduate programs leading to certification as a nurse anesthetist or nurse practitioner, this route saves me time and money.”
Still, there are trade-offs to leaving campus a year ahead of schedule. “I’m definitely going to miss all my friends,” says DiPaula, a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and captain of the Dance Team who also serves as a peer mentor. “When I was a freshman, I had trouble meeting people; the peer mentors brought me out of my shell. First-years and mentors always stay a week after classes ended, and come to campus a week early. Being with that group of people was amazing. So I think I’m going to miss meeting this incoming class of freshmen most of all.”