Learning to Treat the Whole Person

Pamela Matthews is a woman with a big heart and career aspirations just as large.

A native Bostonian, she earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and began working with a local hospital, managing residential sites and group homes for people who were developmentally delayed. Pamela was responsible for all of the behavioral components of her caseload and acted as a liaison between her patients and their medical care teams. Concurrently, she volunteered with the Special Olympics, working with kids and adults with intellectual disabilities.

“Over time, I wanted to understand more than the environmental and emotional parts of my clients’ lives,” said Pamela. “I wanted to treat the ‘whole person’ and combine what I learned in my social work experience with the medical aspect of caring for people.”

She gives credit to two past clients – one with a severe head injury and neurological damage who passed away and another with extreme paranoia – who inspired her to explore additional career opportunities in healthcare.

“As a social worker, I began to understand that physical health is an essential part of addressing my clients’ emotional and environmental needs,” she said. “I knew pursuing a career in nursing would allow me to better understand my clients’ medical needs. That is why I want to be a nurse.”

Finding common connections

Today Pamela is enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program at Chamberlain College of Nursing’s Indianapolis campus, while continuing to work as a case manager for people with diagnosed mental illness.

Pamela believes her experiences in social work and nursing complement each other well. In both settings, she’s responsible for relating to people with varying backgrounds, and she’s expected to have impeccable listening and problem-solving skills. But the most important part of her dual roles is developing a deep sense of trust and encouraging her patients’ and clients’ as they strive for wellness.

“In my clinicals at Chamberlain, I am learning how to support my patients as they navigate complex circumstances,” said Pamela. “As a social worker, I’m trained to advocate for my clients by assessing environmental factors that could be contributing to their medical conditions. To me, emotional health and physical well-being go hand-in-hand.”

All in the family

The career shift from social work to nursing allows Pamela to care for her clients – and soon patients – while also advancing her healthcare career. She is expected to graduate in October and plans to go on to earn her Master of Science in Nursing degree to eventually become a nurse practitioner.

Pamela attributes her love of caring for people and high career goals to genetics. After being widowed at the age of 40, her grandmother went to school to become a psychiatric nurse in order to care for Pamela’s mother and aunts, who were young at the time. Her great aunt was one of the first women to join the Navy and served during World War II and the Korean War. She went on to become chief physical therapist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, a coveted and particularly uncommon title for women of her great aunt’s generation.

When asked about her continued educational goals, Pamela says, “My great aunt was an academic and a high achiever in the workplace. She would tell me I can strive further and tough it out – so that’s what I plan to do.”

By combining her education in nursing and social work, Pamela hopes to be a valuable asset in the healthcare industry – someone who genuinely cares for the health and wellness of her patients.

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