January 2018 – NYC Men in Nursing Featured Member
Columbia University School of Nursing Class of 2017
My name is Jacob Barela and I am from Southern Idaho. I attended Emerson College in Boston where I studied Political Communication and graduated in 2010. I had always wanted to help people and I had originally thought I would do that through politics. I began working with non-profit and community groups that were health-centered. After I graduated from Emerson, I joined the Peace Corps and served briefly in Niger and Guatemala. Due to international political reasons, I was not able to complete my Peace Corps service and joined AmeriCorps immediately upon my return to the United States. I worked with AmeriCorps VISTA in a community health center in San Francisco. This all led me to pursue a masters degree in public health where I studied population and family health at Columbia University and received my degree in 2015. Before the Peace Corps, I had never considered nursing as a profession. However, having fellow volunteers who were nurses and working with nurses internationally really showed me the possibility. My AmeriCorps experience solidified my decision on becoming a nurse and helping people on the community level as well as the individual level. After obtaining my MPH I transitioned into Columbia's School of Nursing where I graduated from the accelerated RN program in October 2017.
I came into nursing thinking that I wanted to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Working in public health had shown me that access to primary care is a leading cause to many health issues and becoming a NP could address this. The thing I like most about nursing is the agency and power nurses have — both RNs and NPs. I love that one of the main roles a nurses have is to be the patient's advocate, especially when patients can't always do that for themselves. When the patient has multiple care providers, I like that the duty and safety of the patient falls on the nurse. The nurse is readily able to focus on treating the individual but I also want to focus on the population. After studying population health, it is hard to ignore the patterns our health system creates. Patients who use the hospital more than a primary care provider is all too common and this must be frustrating for nurses to see the same preventable issues with the same patients. However, even more than that, one of the things I like least about nursing is the amount of time spent with patients. This varies across work environments, but in hospital roles, I think seeing so many patients only once or twice throughout their lifespan seems like a missed opportunity. I am doing my best to find my strengths and be sure I am working on both the individual and population level.
I have decided that I will work as an RN and not continue on in a Nurse Practitioner program immediately. I enjoyed all of my clinical rotations and wanted to get work experience before pursuing another degree. One of the ways I became confident in this decision was through the NYC Men in Nursing group. I was able to see the many different places nurses worked in and all the different things nurses can do. I have really enjoyed seeing members come from different schools and hospitals. I also enjoyed being part of the mentorship program and found my mentor very helpful in guiding me and answering all of my questions. This group has been very helpful for me and I am excited to be involved with it as a practicing nurse instead of as a student nurse. I hope that the NYC Men in Nursing group will continue to grow. If I could add anything to it, I would like to have more volunteer opportunities with the group. I enjoy going to the monthly meetings and learning new things, but I wish there were more ways to volunteer as a nurse throughout the year. These could be one-time events or reoccurring happenings. One of the ways could be to get more men in nursing and I think the best way to do that is through youth programs.
Engaging more men in nursing means educating more boys that nursing is an option. A few years ago, I worked with a community organization out of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital called the Lang Youth Medical Program. Their goal is to work with students from Washington Heights and Inwood to show them medicine-related career paths. Programs like this have to exist in order to show youth from lower socioeconomic communities that there are options for them. Nursing has to be included in that and in any STEM-related programs targeted at youth. Programs like that should be receiving support and education from organizations like Men in Nursing.
I am very excited to start working as a nurse. I will start at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center next month and I am absolutely ecstatic about it! Because I liked my med-surg clinical rotations as well as my psych rotation, I am hoping that oncology will allow me to work on both of those areas at the same time. Helping people on the population level is still a goal of mine. I hope that I can continue to do this through research and health policy work. Becoming a nurse practitioner also remains a goal of mine and after a few years of experience, I hope to have a clearer picture of exactly what specialty I want to pursue.