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Nurse's pursuit of graduate degree driven by a commitment to serving others

Nurse's pursuit of graduate degree driven by a commitment to serving others

“We shouldn’t call our patients the homeless. They’re experiencing homelessness. Because homelessness is supposed to be temporary,” says nurse Amy Skroch, a Winona State University-Rochester graduate, and soon-to-be nurse practitioner.

Amy has focused her nursing career on caring for underserved populations — specifically people experiencing homelessness. This month, she graduated from WSU-Rochester’s nurse practitioner program, and with her new degree, she plans to further the work she’s been doing since becoming a nurse in 2013.

“I love my job. I love what I do,” she says. “I’m hoping with my nurse practitioner degree I will eventually be able to continue to do this work.”

For the last three years, Amy has worked at Hennepin County Healthcare for the Homeless. She’s run three clinics in three different shelters, and provided services to patients. No small feat for a single person, but this is a fire that has been burning in Amy for some time.

“It all started in undergrad was when I was first introduced to just doing general service,” says Amy.

Volunteer work during undergrad led her to a year of postgraduate volunteering. She joined a housing-first program in Pittsburgh for patients experiencing homelessness. As part of the program's integrated dual diagnosis treatment team, she was the registered nurse providing medical care coordination and medical services for those patients.

“I love that patient population, they are very challenging, very complex, and I think the main reason why I do it is because, when you get down to it, there's really not much that’s different between me and someone that’s experiencing homelessness,” said Amy.

Amy grew up on a dairy farm in Rice, Minnesota. She describes her childhood as one with good parents, a stable household, and plenty of support. So she knows that she’s got advantages some of her patients might not. Growing up on the farm is more than a reason for gratitude; it’s a point of pride for the now big-city nurse.

“My parents are both dairy farmers and very proud of that background and how it has also shaped me to be who I am,” she says.

Professionally, her experience at WSU is something she says prepared her for the often stressful life of a nurse.

“The biggest thing with being a nurse, and being a nurse practitioner, is you have to be organized, and you have to prioritize, and delegate, and be able to manage so many things. Definitely, my nursing education has influenced and has been able to keep me on track and be able to be successful in what I do with such a vulnerable population,” says Amy.

Amy credits professor Mieca Valen, who was her CNP project mentor, as a primary support during school.

“She has been super supportive and super wonderful. I’ve had her for other classes and she’s the one that tells us, you know, we will be okay… kind of always pumping us up,” she says.

Amy also felt she could turn to her fellow students for support, often in the WSU nursing lounge on the Rochester Community and Technical College campus.

The grad school life she’s led has left little time for outside activities, and when asked, Amy is uncertain of her hobbies. Now that she’s graduated, Amy says she’ll try to get outside, go for bike rides, and maybe start reading again. More than anything, though, she’s itching to get back to work.

“What motivates me is the fact that I come home every day. I have a home and a lot of my patients don't,” says Amy. ”Because I have that amazing gift of a home, that motivates me to go back out there and help people, to try and give them a little bit of a home in seeing me as their nurse.”

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