For Latonya Fore, MSN, APRN, CBN, CSOWM, CCM, a first-generation student in Kent State University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, the drive to ‘always be learning’ came from a memorable conversation with an undergraduate faculty member.

“I remember this one professor encouraged our class to never stop learning,” recalled Fore. “We were tired of papers and tests, but they pointed out this was just the beginning of what we’d need to know to provide the best care to our patients. It took a long time for me to realize the importance of this faculty member’s words, but they have proved to be true.”

These statements were also echoed by Fore’s former boss at the Cleveland Public Library, Mr. William Bradford, who encouraged her to pursue higher education.

“He bought me my first stethoscope and nursing textbooks. I was pregnant with my first child at the age of 19 while in my second year of nursing school,” expressed Fore. “Then my mom passed away during my last year of undergraduate school. Without Mr. Bradford’s love and support, I don’t know how I would have been able to complete the program.”

When it came time to research universities that offered terminal degrees, many factors came into play for Fore.

“Cost was a major concern. I didn’t want to go into any more debt, so I knew I needed something affordable,” she explained. “The Kent State faculty have many ties to Cleveland and Ohio. They know our healthcare system well and have local contacts that are willing to work with us. I would not have been able to make some of those connections had I attended a school out of state. I also liked that this was an established program.”

Fore has already begun to see the lessons she is learning in the classroom being applied in the professional setting.

“Our faculty want us to be leaders and see things from a broader perspective. I’m thinking about problems from a system-wide perspective, not just how it applies within my organization, but nationally and globally as well. I also want to know how a particular situation will impact other areas outside of nursing,” said Fore, who gave an example of needing another blood pressure cuff on a unit. “Previously I would just say we need another BP cuff. But now I think about the cost to the department, where that money is going to come from, who is going to place the order, and from which medical supplier. This way of thinking has just opened my eyes. I didn’t have an appreciation for it before.”

As a senior nurse practitioner for a local hospital system, Fore works in the outpatient department for obesity and weight management. Many of her patients are recovering from bariatric surgery. In her day-to-day practice, Fore is fostering relationships with her patients and helping them to develop and maintain healthier habits and lifestyle changes.

Working full-time and balancing coursework can be a delicate balance for graduate students, explains Fore, but she has found organizing her day and relying on the support of her loved ones to be instrumental in helping her to accomplish her dreams.

“Every minute of my day is accounted for. Knowing ahead of time these are the hours I can work and this is when I’ll write a paper helps to keep me focused. Sometimes that means doing schoolwork on the evenings or weekends, but I still have a life. I’ve been on vacation with my family and attended my son’s basketball games,” said Fore. “My husband has been a major support for me. He’s taken on more of our household responsibilities like preparing dinner or taking our kids to practice. This gives me time to get some schoolwork in before I meet him for the second quarter. My organization and manager know that I am pursuing this degree and they have offered their support as I grow as a professional.”

With 17 years of nursing experience, Fore says one of her favorite things about the profession is knowing she is making a difference in the lives of her patients.

“I always seem to encounter others who look like me, my aunt, my grandmother or my dad. These individuals tend to stick out more to me because we can relate to each other on a deeper level,” explained Fore. “When a patient says, ‘I really appreciate seeing you because you look like me, understand my culture and what I deal with,’ it’s the best feeling to know I have helped to explain something in a way they could understand or have been their support through a procedure. It’s the high point in my career.”

Over the years, Fore has seen her fair share of challenges in healthcare, namely staff and resource shortages, which have been exaggerated due to the pandemic.

“It is a challenge to provide the care we want to provide to patients. In every setting, the hospital, homecare, even in case management, it feels like we have more than we can handle. Functioning at the level we need to be at as a profession to provide quality care to patients requires a better nurse-to-patient ratio, properly functioning equipment, and more ancillary staff. As a whole team, we are spread too thin.” 

Alternatively, Fore has witnessed changes within the profession that have positively impacted nurses and patients.

“Thank goodness for technology and the ability to share data with all members of a patient’s care team. It prevents duplication and cuts down errors,” described Fore. “As a millennial, I was in the middle of the shift away from paper and I greatly appreciate where we are today with virtual and telehealth. Technology allows us to offer access to people who may not have had access to the healthcare system in the past.”

Following graduation later this year, Fore would love to pursue opportunities in academia as a full-time faculty.

“We need to see more diversity with our educators. I think it starts there, not only in clinical practice, but in academia,” stated Fore. “We need to be diligent in mentoring potential candidates who may not meet the requirements now, so that one day they can be successful in those positions.”

But it’s not just educators of diversity or minority populations who need to be inspired, it’s potential nursing students as well.

“We need to help inspire students of underrepresented populations to consider entering the field of nursing because patients need to see providers who look like them. Our patients need diversity,” said Fore passionately. “Only you understand your culture, what it is like to be in your shoes or live in your community. It matters that they know and see you. That’s how we establish and maintain trust with our patients and when we ultimately see the best health outcomes.”

Fore wants the next generation of underrepresented nurses to know change is coming.

“There are people ahead of you fighting so you have the same opportunities as they did to advance in your career. As more seasoned nurses and professionals move up the ladder, we are going to reach down and pull you up. We are going to come back for you,” declared Fore. “Sometimes we just need help getting the door open. Somebody helped make it better for me and we’re going to do it for you. Keep trucking along, gaining experience, and being dedicated to your education. It will happen.”

As her time at Kent State University College of Nursing comes to an end, Fore enthusiastically shared her experience has been fantastic. “The DNP program was put together like a perfect puzzle. It has absolutely provided me with new skills I would have never learned or discovered had I not decided to continue my education,” remarked Fore. “I truly had no idea it would be this rewarding. The faculty are among the best in their specialties. It’s been a fantastic experience that I have absolutely loved. I would recommend this program to anybody!”

Author