I met accountants, physicians, business executives. It was a real eye opener. A whole busload of us left campus to spend two weeks in our nation’s capital to help with the homeless. RMU has this connection with the Anglican church just a few blocks from the White House. Just something I wanted to do. Seemed important. Different.
Well, you really get to know them, I mean, these are people. They have names. They have a story. They’re just trying to make it.
They sell this newspaper they put together to make a few bucks, called Street Sense. Thought I’d help. So, I’m standing there on the corner, hawking this paper, and some lady comes up to me, says, “Get a job.” And for the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to actually be homeless.
Today, my dream is to open a psychiatric clinic for people on the street. I’m on a path that’s the rest of my life.
Kristen says that being featured in the Change A Life campaign gave her the opportunity to share her story.
“When people inquired about the campaign, I had the chance to tell them about my work with the homeless. On more than one occasion, this sparked a deeper conversation. Who knows—maybe I changed a few lives that way too?”
The experience helped her decide on a capstone project topic for her doctoral work at RMU, where she’s working toward her Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree in the Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner track. Doing most of her research at Light of Life Ministries in Pittsburgh, Kristen is conducting a qualitative study looking at the cultural meaning of mental well-being among homeless men.
She also teaches part-time as a clinical instructor and a graduate assistant for the School of Nursing. “I really enjoy it. Teaching is a huge passion of mine. I am also the TA for the undergraduate students, which also involves a lot of teaching. So it is a lot of fun.”
Most recently she was chosen for the Jonas Salk Fellowship, an educational program of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation that brings together graduate students from multiple health care disciplines for discussion and education.
When she’s not working toward her D.N.P., Kristen
works as a T.A. at RMU and as a registered nurse at
Allegheny General Hospital in the Neuro ICU. “It is an
amazing experience. I will also be a clinical instructor for
one of the undergraduate courses at AGH in the
In the future she hopes to open a psychiatric clinic for
people on the street.
“I am a busy girl, but I enjoy every bit of it!”