You Provide the Passion, We Provide the Training Ground
Martha began thinking about her future during junior year at Rockford Guilford High School in Illinois. She was sure of three things: Whatever she studied would have international value; it would allow her to express her nurturing personality; and it would provide service to other people. The answer came to her suddenly, and it led her to Marquette University's College of Nursing.
"I really wanted to be able to interact with people on a one-on-one basis, and nursing is kind of the essence of dealing with someone in an intimate situation, a situation that has the power to make or break the patient's success in coping with a health problem or injury. Being welcomed into the kind of relationship that exists between nurse and patient attracted me," she says.
Advice for incoming nursing majors:
"Make friends with people in your classes so you can have lots of study groups. It's through laughter and humor and friendship that you're able to make it through and study hard."
Biggest surprise about working life:
"It's been such a contrast from my student
schedule, when I was bouncing between classes and activities and friends."
Biggest reward of the job:
"Being able to walk with somebody through the most difficult and intimate time in their lives."
Favorite Marquette memory:
"Being part of the Marquette community, which serves the surrounding community. …Midnight Run (a hunger and homelessness outreach project) was something that really touched me and formed me into who I am."
When she decided to become a nurse:
"I kind of fell into nursing by accident. It was toward the end of high school, and I was looking for something that combined academic knowledge and science and caring and nurturing. I wanted something that would be a universal skill. I eventually would like to do some kind of international work, and nursing is something that crosses all borders."
If she could do it over again:
"I would have taken Spanish classes and minored in Spanish. I'm actually taking a Spanish class through Froedtert right now, and I'm thinking, ‘Gosh, I wish I had done this before.'"
Choosing Marquette was easy. The university's mission of academic excellence, faith and social justice, and the College of Nursing's commitment to serve every segment of the human family were in sync with Martha's values. Even as a student, she built connections with the people who seem to fall through the cracks of traditional health care delivery systems.
As a student at Marquette, she traveled to Kenya to work with community health nurses treating HIV-positive patients. She worked at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Milwaukee. She took courses such as Nursing Care for the HIV Patient to build her skills and awareness of some of the social justice aspects of nursing. And she also got acquainted with some of the outright joy that comes from standing with patients during their time of need.
"Junior year I did my obstetrical clinical at St. Joseph's Hospital in Milwaukee, which was amazing. I was able to see a birth almost every week. I stood in the corner of the delivery room fighting back tears. It was great to be present for such happy moments," she says.
She did her mental health clinical at Rogers Memorial Hospital and general medical/surgical clinicals at both Milwaukee's main heart hospital and at Froedtert.
The big challenge came during her pediatric clinical at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, where she comforted a 3-year-old boy who had third-degree burns over 45 percent of his body. "I was informed that social workers were coming to assume custody of this little boy from his parents. Child abuse was suspected. It really made me look at the whole system and know how tough it can be when there are no clear-cut answers. All I could do that day was cuddle him and say a little prayer."
As graduation approached, Martha knew where she wanted to work. Her experience at Froedtert was amazing, she says.
"I loved the academic environment here and how I was encouraged to keep learning. The professor who worked with us pushed us to go beyond general nursing care and look at the pathophysiology of things, to ask the doctors questions, to take a proactive role and really work as a patient advocate."
But she also valued her classroom experience. "The curriculum is science focused, and students have access to these great clinical placements where they develop outstanding skills. But on top of that, we're asked to think deeply about tough questions such as why the health care system is broken and what we can do to fix it. That's the kind of nurse I want to be, and those are universal skills that cross all country borders," she says.
Mwende, who gave Martha her Kenyan name of Mwende, meaning "beloved one."
During the 30-hour trip from Milwaukee to Nairobi, Martha Trevey had a lot on her mind. She was making her first trip to Africa.
Martha wanted firsthand experience giving nursing care under such trying circumstances. But as the airplane touched down and she reached for her carry-on bag, she couldn't help but wonder, "Will it be everything I'm looking for?"
Every five minutes, someone in Kenya dies from AIDS. The reality of working in a community that lived with that astounding statistic would test Martha's strength for the next six weeks as she put what she'd learned in class into practice.
She visited villages with no electricity; homes with no mothers. Yet, children still played; women still laughed. Families celebrated what they had. Then one day, she walked into a home and froze. It wasn't the poverty that stunned her. It was the young woman lying on a pallet, so ill she struggled to put her hand out to greet Martha. She was dying from AIDS.
"The guilt was so overwhelming, I couldn't breathe," Martha remembers. "She was 21. We were born half a world apart, but more alike than different. At that moment I felt the enormity of the gift I'd received by attending Marquette, and I knew why I was becoming a nurse."