Makenna Franklin, Plymouth State University, Interdisciplinary Major
Growing up, I have always had my heart set on building a career around helping individuals in need, whether physically or emotionally. Starting in high school I directed all of my energy towards the nursing field. I became a Certified Nursing Assistant and have practiced as one for seven years now. I entered Plymouth State as a nursing major with the goal of becoming a Registered Nurse. My experiences within the nursing curriculum as well as my experiences working at nursing homes have made me more aware of the field of “patient advocacy” – which is what I want to title the major that I am building. I want to take my passion for helping people and change the way that the health care system looks at patients; I want patients to be seen as partners and not as passive recipients. Patient advocates are responsible for supporting patients and making sure that their voices are heard when they are at their weakest, and make navigating the health care system easier. This major will combine Nursing, Social Work, Psychology, and Health disciplines to cover all aspects in which a patient advocate should be well-educated in.
The reason for building my major centered on Patient Advocacy is because I am still conflicted on whether I want to get my Bachelors in Nursing when I graduate or get my Masters in Social Work to become a Case Manager. Either way, patient advocacy is an important component in both career options and would be a great basis for my future since it combines both disciplines. In addition, there are currently no other programs at Plymouth State that combine these disciplines well enough to meet my needs regarding my career goals. While reviewing other majors and minors offered at Plymouth State University, I have found that there are none that focus on patient advocacy substantially. The major that I am building is the only one that has a well-rounded selection of courses to directly correlate to patient advocacy while integrating my future plans. Each course that I chose was selected with careful consideration, and together they give me the knowledge that I will need to be successful in my career.
Starting with my quantitative reasoning connection course (QRCO), I chose Mathematics and the Humanities. This course explores the relationships of mathematics to fields such as Art, Music, and Philosophy. I chose this course compared to other QRCO options because of the relationship it has towards philosophy, which is the study of the nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. It is concerned with trying to make sense of ourselves and the world that we live in which I believe would be influential towards how I practice as a patient advocate. The next course that I chose comes from the Communication and Media Studies department and is the only course in my program that is not taken from the Social Work, Psychology, Health, or Nursing department. This course is called Human Communication and Conflict and examines conflict and leadership in personal and professional settings with a focus on the role communication plays in creating, negotiating, and transforming conflict situations. This course will help me navigate difficult client situations and resolve client conflicts in a professional way. In addition, it will help me build professional relationships with coworkers, be a leader, and communicate more effectively.
The next group of courses was chosen from the Health and Human Performance department. Stress Management provides an overview of mind-body techniques to help manage stress and enhance health/wellness. In this course I learned a variety of healing methods, as well as how to practice, apply, and demonstrate stress management interventions and techniques. Not only is this course beneficial for my own wellbeing but as a patient advocate it will allow me to suggest techniques to my clients to help them reduce their stress levels at such an overwhelming time in their life. The next health course I chose was Applied Nutrition for Healthy Living. This course explored how diet and exercise can affect our wellness throughout our lifespan. As a patient advocate it will be important for me to understand these concepts and factors affecting my clients. Next, Drug Behavior, explores the relationship of drugs to mental and physical health. It covers the physiological, psychological, sociological, pharmacological, and legal aspects of drugs in modern society. I will come into contact with a variety of clients experiencing many issues, including drug addiction, and I should have a basic understanding of this issue in order to properly be able to assist and connect my client to the proper resources. The last course I chose from the Health department was Mental Health Issues which explored mental illness and how to identify resource personnel and agencies pertinent to these mental health issues. This course informed me how to appropriately help and communicate with individuals who are suffering from a mental illness.
The next department that I integrated into my program was Nursing. I chose four courses that I felt were essential to patient advocacy. The first course, Professional Issues, introduces concepts of career development, roles and responsibilities within health care and professional organizations, and examines issues related to providing quality nursing care. As a patient advocate it is important for me to understand the current health care system and the challenges that are plaguing it. Next, Pharmacology and Pathophysiology explored the principles of disease and disease mechanisms including pathophysiology and their pharmacological treatments. In addition, it addressed clinical assessment, analysis of clinical information, and clinical decision-making. Ultimately, this course gives me the ability to be a better patient advocate because I will be able to fully understand the medications my clients are taking and what affect these medications have on their body. The third course I chose is Introduction to Patient Centered Care where I learned how to provide individualized care that recognizes patient’s preferences, values, and needs, as well as respects the patient as a full partner in providing compassionate, coordinated, appropriate, safe, and effective care. I think that this course is essential to include in my major because it stresses the importance of including patients in their own care and respecting their voices! Along with this course there was a clinical portion titled Clinical Application of Patient Centered Care where I was in the field once a week for one semester practicing the concepts that I learned in the introduction course in regards to providing safe and effective care.
Moving onto the Psychology department, I strategically chose three courses that would be beneficial towards my program. The first course I chose was Life-Span Developmental Psychology which explored the principles underlying cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development through the life-span. Currently public hospitals treat a greater share of mental health patients so it is essential for me to understand the basics of psychology. The next course I chose from the Psychology department is Personality which discusses psychoanalytical, existential, social, behavioral, and self-theories and how they relate to the development and assessment of behavior. This course allows me to explore the different theories revolving around personality and develop my own. As a patient advocate it will help me understand why people behave and cope the way that they do in difficult situations. The last course I chose is Social Psychology which overlaps a bit with the personality course because it explores the behavior of individuals in various social situations. As a patient advocate it will be beneficial for me to understand how people may behave in certain social situations and why so that I can properly address the issue.
The last department from which I selected courses is the Social Work department. The first course I chose is Mental Health and Society which examines current issues and problems in mental health, mental illness, and health care delivery from a domestic and global perspective. In addition, it also explores the impact of social life, including culture, social class, race and ethnicity, gender, and age on physical and emotional health. It also looks at treatment methods and interventions as well as mental health outcomes. Basically, this course addresses a variety of topics within the mental health study which will be beneficial for me to be aware of as a patient advocate since I will most likely come across mental health patients. The last course integrated into my program is Case Management and Advocacy. This course is essential for my program because it introduces social work skills associated with planning, seeking, advocating, and monitoring services on behalf of clients.
My program, Patient Advocacy, is considered interdisciplinary because it involves knowledge from a variety of fields. It integrates Communication Studies, Health and Human Performance, Nursing, Psychology, and Social Work. This program will prepare me for my future because it provides me with a base of knowledge that is not only a stepping stone for furthering my education, but will also qualify me for a job in the health care field. My ultimate goal, as stated previously, is to either enter a second-degree nursing program or get my masters in social work. This patient advocacy program allows me to go in either direction with a great background of knowledge. Without this major, I would not be able to pursue either of these career options. I feel like this major is truly setting me up for success in something that I am passionate about and have always wanted since childhood.