Adopt-a-Scholar Program pairs students with donors

Emory Nursing | Sept. 3, 2014

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Nursing alumna Cheryl Seavey Murphy (right) provided advice and financial support to help Margaret Ann Hoffman become a labor and delivery nurse.

Photography by Bryan Meltz

Imagine that you are a student nurse, about to face your first patient in your clinical rotation. You've reviewed her chart, checked all of her medications and their side effects, and drawn up a care plan. Now it's time to meet her. You knock on the door and introduce yourself, mentally preparing to examine her from head to toe. Despite your nerves, you manage to project a façade of professionalism as you conduct the exam.

After noting her vitals on the chart, you triple-check her medications and prepare her for a heparin injection. You steel yourself as you give your first injection to a patient. Her health literally is in your hands.

The transition from student to nurse can be overwhelming. One minute you're taking notes in the classroom; the next you're giving a patient her medication.

Emory's Adopt-a-Scholar Program helps smooth that transition by pairing nursing students with donors who have been there.

Cheryl Seavey Murphy 77N "adopted" Margaret Ann Hoffman 13N. Murphy's support, says Hoffman, was invaluable, both financially and as a mentor.

A long-time supporter of the School of Nursing, Murphy has provided annual gifts for scholarships for more than 25 years. Her daughter, Susie Murphy Reynolds 06N, and her sister, Susan Seavey Forte 80N, are graduates of the school. Her husband, Emory radiologist Fred Murphy 77C 81M 86MR, benefitted from the scholarships he received during medical school.

"Emory has given us many opportunities, and we are grateful," says Murphy, a former surgical nurse at Emory University Hospital. "We love to support students who are driven to make a difference in patient care and in health education. We are honored to support students who are passionate about nursing."

Hoffman fulfills both those requirements through her drive to alleviate suffering. In high school, she went on three mission trips to Garcia, Mexico. During one trip, she used her Spanish skills to translate for an American doctor on house calls. One woman had a mass in her throat and with Hoffman's help was able to tell the doctor how big it was and when it developed so that she could receive further medical attention.

"The experience brought about a desire to develop a skill set to serve people in a way that addresses their physical, psychological, and emotional needs," Hoffman says. "That's the role of the nurse. It's a humbling opportunity, one that allows me to connect with others and walk with them through times of illness and wellness. I couldn't dream of a better job."

During her senior year at Emory, Hoffman participated in the Alternative Winter Break program by working on a maternity unit at Hospital San Vincente de Paul in the Dominican Republic. She made house visits to new mothers and newborns and asked about breastfeeding for a large study. The trip enabled her to complete her senior practicum on a labor and delivery unit and thus confirmed her desire to work in maternal and neonatal health.

"It helped to talk to someone who understands the experience of nursing school—how overwhelming it is," Hoffman says of her mentor.

Murphy eagerly took on the role. "We talked about the challenges of clinical rotations, of balancing classroom work with being in a clinical setting," says Murphy. "It was wonderful to watch Margaret Ann grow as she learned the language of nursing and began practicing."

The two first met at an Adopt-a-Scholar luncheon and stayed in touch through coffee dates and nursing school events. Murphy was inspired to participate by Barbara Reed 57N 79MN, the school's inaugural program donor. Reed formed a strong tie with her "adoptee," Donte Flanagan 04OX 06N, and her enthusiasm proved infectious. Reed's second adoptee, Kaitlin Seabolt 13N, graduated with Hoffman last year.

Hoffman is now immersed in a new challenge: her first job as a labor and delivery nurse at Emory University Hospital Midtown. Excited to learn from nurses with years of experience, she brings with her compassion, a desire to serve, and a newly minted BSN degree. She plans to work for a few years and then return to Emory for an advanced practice nurse-midwifery degree, which will enable her to undertake medical missions as a midwife.

"The benefits of scholarships are far-reaching," says Murphy. "Attracting excellent students to the School of Nursing is important for the future of our profession. Because of the opportunity to attend our nursing program, Margaret Ann will represent Emory in the longstanding tradition of graduates who have the skills and knowledge to achieve great success in their careers."