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Kristin Brunsell recognized for her leadership

| Jan Adams

Kristin Brunsell, a December 2018 graduate of UW-Eau Claire College of Nursing and Health Sciences, received the Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA) Future Nursing Leader Award during commencement. The award, presented by WNA CEO Gina Dennik-Champion, MSN, RN, MSHA, recognizes nursing students from across the state who demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities during the educational process.

Kristin was nominated by Pamela Guthman, DNP, RN, clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Dr. Guthman wrote in her nominating letter, “Ms. Brunsell is already a nurse leader in so many ways.” Below Kristin responds to several questions related to her time at UW-Eau Claire and future plans.

Kristin credits her experiences at UW-Eau Claire in preparing her take a leadership role in nursing.

The opportunities to develop my leadership have shaped me into the person that I am today. I was fortunate to be able to participate in so many different experiences while at UW-Eau Claire. In addition to nursing, I was able to minor in Spanish for Health Professions and Global Studies. I have been able to serve as the UW-Eau Claire Campus Connector, a member of the Women’s Rugby Team, Lutheran Student Association (LSA), ECSNA, the Women’s Lacrosse Club, the Global Learning Community. I was able to work at Student Health Services and as an International Student Peer Guide.

I was also able to attend the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Student Policy Summit. This summit gave me phenomenal insight into the role of the nurse advocate and how to take my knowledge and skills and apply them to legislation and political recommendations. Working with Deans from across Wisconsin and other undergraduate and graduate nursing students, we visited legislators, as nurses, to express our concerns and recommendations for current legislation. This opportunity helped me to realize the weight that nurses carry and how influential we can be.

The nursing program has prepared me to take a leadership role in nursing by teaching me about clinical nursing, how to perform nursing assessments and nursing skills, how to identify and respond to symptoms, how to care for patients. But this program has also taught me how to be an advocate for my patients, both at the bedside and in other arenas.

Kristin encountered supportive and nurturing faculty at UW-Eau Claire that contributed to her success.

Our greatest attribute at UW-Eau Claire is the faculty that we have. I can honestly say that I don’t think I would be the person or the nurse that I am today without the faculty who have inspired, guided, mentored, advised and encouraged me. Particularly Professor Shelley-Rae Pehler has been amazingly influential. She started by encouraging me to go to local conferences and seminars, and I would say that she is the one who put me on my career path in nursing. She suggested I attend a regional conference which led me to join Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA) and American Nurses Association. She encouraged me to attend the Student Policy Summit in Washington DC, which helped me secure my position as a Nurse Policy Intern for WNA. She has also guided me in my research and helped me to learn how to conduct research and, perhaps most importantly, I believe that she helped me learn how to think about things in a different way. Dr. Pam Guthman was also an incredible role model. Her passion for public health is infectious and it was the encouragement that I needed to develop my own passion, and to learn what my role as a nurse could be in the arena of public health and health policy.

The gift of amazing faculty does not end there, Gail Hanson-Brenner Heather Iverson and Rita Sperstad have also been influential in my growth as a nurse, clinically, professionally and personally.

Kristin is empowered and inspired to pursue her dreams.

I am currently in the interview process to secure a position as a PhD student. I intend to pursue a PhD in Nursing focusing on health policy. I want to study how health policy affects patients and patient outcomes, particularly minority populations and incarcerated populations. I also want to study the nurse’s role in health policy and how nursing involvement can affect policy, which in turn affects patients. I have also accepted a position at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, WI working on their Respiratory and Transitional Care Unit.

Kristin’s advice to students currently in the nursing program or who are considering nursing as a profession.

Don’t get distracted. Don’t get distracted by things that don’t matter, but mostly don’t get distracted by how hard things are. Nursing is hard, but it is doable. You don’t have to sacrifice everything to be a nurse. In fact, I would argue that maintaining your sense of individuality and continuing the things that make you you will actually make you a stronger nurse. Manage your time and get it done. Additionally, take advantage of every single opportunity that you can. No matter how small it seems, seize every moment that you can to help yourself grow, learn and develop a network. Work with your faculty, they are there to help and they are a fount of information. Use it. Use your resources, take time to relax, accept support from family and friends. I don’ think any of us can do it without them, I know I couldn’t. Prepare yourself for where you want to go, not where you are today. The field of nursing is endless. When I started this program, I had no idea that I would be where I am today. Think big and aim high, you can do it.