Honoring Our Alumni in Healthcare
For most high school seniors, Senior Service Week was a fun way to help the community while fulfilling a graduation requirement at STM. For Val Chilson (STM ’11), however, it solidified her decision to go into the nursing field.
“I was placed at St. Ann’s Center for Intergenerational Care for my Senior Service Week,” Chilson recalled. “I saw that caring for people, both young and old, has such a positive impact on them as well as myself. I enjoyed being able to help those in need.”
After graduation from STM, Chilson studied nursing at Marquette University. Her first nursing position was as a labor and delivery nurse at Columbia St. Mary’s in Milwaukee, but after a few years, she decided to push her comfort level and become a travel nurse. In the last three years, she has worked labor and delivery assignments in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and, most recently, New York City, where she has resided since August 2019.
“It was especially tough to be working in NYC when the pandemic broke,” she explained. “We really had to come together as a unit to figure out the best practices to give our patients the best care possible while also keeping our own health and safety in mind. We had daily huddles to discuss updates and plans of action in case of emergencies, and we stepped up for one another more than we ever had before. Personally, it helped me realize what the most important things to prioritize while caring for patients were. I continue to now carry those prioritization values with me in my career and will in the long run.”
Throughout the stressful height of the COVID-19 public health crisis, Chilson maintained her personal wellness on her off-days by journaling, meditating, and staying busy with workouts, puzzles, and movies.
“It was incredibly hard to separate the trauma I was seeing and experiencing at work from my daily life at home, all while being 900 miles away from my loved ones. After a while, I realized how important my own mental health and self-care were outside of the workplace,” she said. “When I was finally able to care for my mental and physical health outside of work, it helped me appreciate and take so much more pride in the role I played in my workplace.”
While at STM, Chilson was involved with soccer, basketball, and yearbook and appreciated the team mentality these activities emphasized. “I think that type of teamwork mentality has carried on into my career now as well. When you work on a hospital unit, teamwork is essential. It takes everyone to keep things running smoothly, and if one person slacks, the whole team is held back. On the hospital unit, if one person isn’t willing to be a team player, the staff, unit flow, and even the patients suffer.”
For students considering careers in nursing, Chilson recommends an open mind along with an incredible work ethic. “There are so many specialties that you can get involved with, and you’re never tied down to just one,” she encourages. “Be willing to try something new and challenge yourself to do things you might not have wanted to do in the past. Be sure to keep yourself both mentally and physically healthy, it will help so much more in the long run. And lastly, be prideful in your future profession, because saving lives is the most rewarding feeling in the world.”
Chilson has recently decided to make New York City her more permanent home and has accepted a full-time position at a fertility clinic. “It’s a new and exciting realm of nursing that includes both clinical and administrative work, and it’s been a nice change of pace after a crazy past year working in the hospital,” she explained. “As awful as the past year-plus has been, I do think that healthcare workers in general are finally being more appreciated and recognized for the essential role they play in our communities and lives — as they should be!”
Chilson with her mom, Carol, and her dad, Shawn
About the Author
Katlyn Putney (STM ’10) has been the Marketing and Volunteer Coordinator at STM since fall 2015 and serves as graphic designer and editor-in-chief of the Spirit. She was recently named Assistant Athletic Director, and coaches with the girls’ basketball and girls’ soccer programs.