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Faith Ackerman

Faith Ackerman

Faith Ackerman

 

Faith Ackerman says her grandmother, Jean Ackerman, who worked as a psychiatric nurse well into her 70s and only stopped because she fell and broke her wrist, long encouraged her to enter that rewarding profession.

But until recently, she “just wasn’t ready” to start down that path, she told BusinessWest, noting that, instead, she first went into the military (more on that eye-opening experience later) and then worked as a technician in a few area veterinary hospitals in efforts to perhaps find what she wanted to do with her life.

Ackerman was helped in that decision, and ultimately became ready to follow her grandmother into nursing, when she became involved in her grandmother’s care as she battled everything from diabetes to an attack of shingles, with Ackerman becoming somewhat frustrated by the decisions made by some of the doctors.

“I stepped in and helped my grandmother as much as humanly possible and took care of her,” she recalled, noting that she became sick during COVID, needed home care, and died in the fall of 2020.

Inspired by these experiences, and also by her grandmother’s career, Ackerman enrolled in Holyoke Community College’s LPN (licensed practical nurse) program, worked as an LPN in hospice care, and recently completed her RN program at HCC.

“There was something that bothered me about having guns and being in dangerous areas and being sort of locked and loaded all the time. I was very sensitive to that, and I felt that my calling was elsewhere.”

In her last clinical rotation, she worked in a surgical trauma unit at Baystate Medical Center and “fell in love” with that type of nursing.

“It’s so hands-on, and these people are so beyond ill that they can’t even life-function,” she explained, noting that patients in this unit are the victims of car crashes, shootings, stabbings, and other traumatic incidents. “They’re very, very, very sick people.”

In many respects, Ackerman’s story reflects those of many people getting into nursing today.

Indeed, some are finding the profession after careers, or at least jobs, in other fields. And many have found inspiration from others in their lives — and from a genuine desire to help those in need.

Meanwhile, her story is indicative of how, sometimes, it takes years, maybe a decade or two, to find one’s true calling.

Ackerman wasn’t exactly expecting the military to be her calling, but her father and grandfather served, and there was a desire to follow suit. Meanwhile, in high school, she suffered from a lack of direction in her life, a rather large chip on her shoulder, and a shortage of money for college.

“I decided to join the military and thought that maybe I could straighten my life out a little bit,” she recalled, adding that she enlisted in the Army and served for 10 years in the Military Police.

Faith Ackerman says her experiences caring for her grandmother

Faith Ackerman says her experiences caring for her grandmother, who died in 2020, helped make her ready to pursue a career in nursing.

This was a learning experience on many levels.

“It wasn’t what I thought, and policing has changed. It was a difficult job, and I went to a couple of countries that were very poor, and it was very depressing and devastating,” she said, adding that a tour of duty in Panama was particularly disheartening.

“It was more that I didn’t like guns anymore,” she went on. “There was something that bothered me about having guns and being in dangerous areas and being sort of locked and loaded all the time. I was very sensitive to that, and I felt that my calling was elsewhere, especially when I was in Panama, where the children were sick, very poor, and there was no healthcare.”

After leaving the military, she found work as a tech in a few different veterinary clinics. She enjoyed that work and thought it might become a career. But then, as noted earlier, her grandmother became sick. And as Ackerman stepped in to help, her career aspirations changed again.

She thought she would make home care the focus of her career in nursing, until that last clinical rotation while completing the RN program at HCC, which opened her eyes to a different kind of care.

“I felt that this was my calling,” she told BusinessWest. “I loved home care, but I really loved taking care of very sick people, just like I loved taking care of very sick animals in the veterinary field.

“I like people and animals to feel safe, and I want them to feel cared for,” she went on. “I have a very genuinely caring heart, so I’m able to keep people calm and feeling that they can trust me. And I know how vulnerable the patients are, so it’s really important for me to build trust with them so I can care for them.

Elaborating, she said many of the patients in the surgical trauma unit, an ICU step-down unit, are on ventilators. Many have had major surgery or have multiple broken bones.

“They’re very task-oriented patients, and there’s a staffing ratio — one nurse to three patients — that I feel very comfortable with,” she noted. “And I’m also able to work with the families of the patients; a lot of them are very involved in the patient care because these patients are so sick, and I like that aspect of this work as well.”

She’s expecting to start at Baystate in July and is very anxious to launch this next chapter in a career that has taken her to many different work environments.

If there is a common denominator to her work to date, it is compassion and a desire to help those in need.

That’s especially true of that time during COVID when she was providing home care to her grandmother.

It was a time of challenge, but also a time of learning, as much as any she spent in the classroom or clinic. And a time to become ready to follow her grandmother into the nursing field.