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WGU Graduate Speaker, Crystal Howard, Winter 2014
WGU Graduate Speaker, Crystal Howard, Winter 2014
Western Governors University
<p>Crystal Howard is a military nurse living and working on a remote Indian reservation in Zuni, New Mexico. She chose Western Governors University because it was recommended to her by one of her nurse officers, despite her initial uncertainty about attending an online university for a graduate-level degree. During her time at WGU, she was deployed to help with the relief effort for Hurricane Sandy. During that busy and hectic time in her life—in a place with severely limited Internet access—she worried about falling behind in her studies. But working with her mentor and thanks to WGU's flexibility, she was able to stay on track toward her graduation goals. And the things she learned in her WGU program served her well through the challenges of working with the Russian-speaking community devastated by the hurricane, despite the language and culture being completely foreign to her. Today, she is the second-youngest nurse on her staff, but she's one of only two with an MSN degree. She's also the first in her family with a bachelor's degree, let alone a master's. She shared her story as a graduate speaker at WGU's Winter 2014 Commencement at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center on February 8, 2014.</p> <p>Crystal Howard earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Leadership and Management degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Hello, WGU Graduates, faculty, family, and friends. My name is Crystal Howard, and I am receiving my master's degree in nursing with a specialty in leadership and management. My master's degree was challenging and rewarding all at the same time. Being a full-time student, working as a full-time nurse, and fulfilling my duty as an active duty military nurse officer was not easy. I am a Lieutenant JG Nurse Officer for the United States Health Service Commission Corps Military Branch. [Applause] Thank you.</p> <p>I was deployed for the first time to Hurricane Sandy in November 2012 during my master's program enrollment. The thoughts of not being able to pass my classes for the current term crossed my mind, especially since I had no access to the internet source and I was working well over 12 hours daily.</p> <p>During deployment to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, I was in a Nurse Leadership and Management role with my fellow nurse officers to provide care and shelter to nursing home patients of the Russian culture. These roles consisted of a rail-based nursing practice environment at our field medical shelter, taking on the responsibilities as a charge nurse, and making sure my assignment category were reaching and maintaining the appropriate standards of nursing and patient care, establishing patient-specific care plans, and helping to find new nursing home for these patients.</p> <p>As a result, my deployment experience gave me the first opportunity to use the knowledge I gained from my master's program and take on the responsibility as a master's prepared nurse. Also, I was awarded the field medical readiness badge, which proves that I am a military officer who has the knowledge and skill related to force readiness and performance while engage in a deployment where I offered care, compassion, comfort, as a nurse officer during a nation crisis. [Applause]</p> <p>Thank you. After deployment and back to my duty station, at Zuni Indian Health Service Health Hospital in Zuni, New Mexico where I work as an ER nurse and live on their secluded Native American Reservation, I was recommended to take over a leadership and management task in the ER and urgent care setting. As I progress further in my master program, the skills and experience I gain grew unto my new role at work, which is a champion leader of point of peer testing.</p> <p>In this role, I educated and trained 61 hospital staff on how to perform and enter certain lab tests, interpret critical lab results, and to utilize this performance in the clinical practice setting. This leadership role has improved the structure and guidance of the ER and urgent care department adherence and performance in achieving a faster response turnover rate for critical lab interpretation and for patient emergent needs to be met in a timely matter. Furthermore, throughout my master's program, I was assigned the role and given privilege to assist with formulating nursing care policies and procedures in my work setting to improve patient health outcomes.</p> <p>This consisted of me working with the director of nursing and other patient care policy work leaders to facilitate better healthcare interventions. These roles that I have detailed as a master's prepared nurse have already improved patient care and increased nursing staff development at my hospital. [Applause] Thank you. This success I have obtained has proven that having my MSN degree will bring achievement in my future nursing career goals and contribute to enhancing healthcare delivery and nursing practice at my healthcare organization.</p> <p>Since I noticed I was helping to improve patient care in the clinical setting with the knowledge base obtained from my MSN studies, I wanted to also improve the care in my community setting. So I chose to explore one of the major adolescent healthcare problems in this culture as my MSN capstone project, which was teen pregnancy on the Zuni Native American Reservation.</p> <p>I interviewed former Zuni teen mothers ages 19 to 25 at their homes in the village. By having the nursing research knowledge gained through my studies, I was able to draw forth an in depth understanding and identify causing of why this adolescent behavior is currently still at rise.</p> <p>Also I was able to learn their cultural way of living, family and culture beliefs on pregnancy prevention, customs and rituals performed during pregnancy, and meaning and life grounded on their religious beliefs. Based on the participants' perspectives and my research findings on the major contributing factors toward this health problem, I am now able to bring evidence-based strategies and interventions on teen pregnancy prevention that can be utilized in the hospital, school, and community settings. I have already reached out to other health professional leaders regarding my capstone findings and hope to minimize or stop further teen pregnancy that has hindered Zuni adolescent females' transition into adulthood effectively. [Applause]</p> <p>Thank you. And I personally and professionally to the Native teens and encouraged them in having positive future educational and career goals in life. By pursuing and achieving higher learning in my profession, I have now become a competent advanced nurse professional to be able to contribute most effectively in making and promoting healthcare changes in a clinical and community setting. Having this success is gratifying as a personal and career accomplishment. Additionally, completing my master's degree in 17 months while also being able to experience this level of hands on learning with my nursing and military career and graduating through WGU's challenging and rigorous curriculum show me that I can accomplish whatever I discipline and motivate myself to succeed in.</p> <p>Despite being the youngest nurse at my facility, I am one of the few to have a BSN degree and I am the only one to have a MSN degree. [Applause] This unique status gives me a platform to encourage other nurses to obtain higher learning to help improve the nursing profession and patient care. I always strive to keep not only myself motivated but also to motivate others to have the eagerness to pursue advanced educational opportunities. Based on my career and personal journey as a graduate student of WGU, I challenge you, graduates, today to never give up on your goals, no matter what obstacles may come across in your life. Also, never settle for the easy way out. Instead, fight hard for what you want in your personal and career life.</p> <p>I am here as your speaker today to inspire and encourage you to take risks that will better your future career and do not care what other people may say or think of you. By having this mindset personally, I am no pursuing my doctor of nursing practice degree specializing in emergency care. [Applause]</p> <p>Thank you. There is a quote by Maya Angelou that I love and it states, "If you are trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be." So WGU graduates, do not be afraid to take that next step. Instead, stay positive and excel in everything you pursue. As long as you have faith in yourself, you will achieve and be successful. As my conclusion, WGU graduates, I want to congratulate you on your accomplishments and I wish you much blessings and success with your new degree and career path. Thank you.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
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