Saturday, June 16, 2012

Frontier Bound AKA Summer Camp for Graduate School Nursing Students

What does this amazing group of people have in common?

We are all experienced nurses that have chosen to return to school for a graduate degree as either a Family Nurse Practitioner, Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, or as a Midwife.  We've chosen not just any school...but the most amazing school ever...Frontier Nursing University.  In US News Top 50 Rankings of Best Grad Schools, FNU ranks #13 for Midwifery and #14 for Family Nurse Practitioner.  I thought I had better throw that out there for those of you that are wondering why on Earth I'm traveling to the very, very rural area of Hyden, Kentucky to obtain a degree as a Midwife and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, when there are many, many universities closer to where I live.  For me, it's more than being just a student at a school...I'm looking for an empowering experience, and boy, did I get it. 

This statue is located near the school and it depicts Mary Breckenridge on horseback.  If you don't know what the Frontier Nursing Service is, I encourage you to read HERE to become inspired by the women who forever changed healthcare for rural families.  

Part of orientation for school involves flying to Kentucky to stay on the tiny campus of FNU for something called Frontier Bound.  Yes, it has a similar model of practice as Outward Bound - where in the end, we are all tired, feel stronger than we've ever felt before, and have formed friendships that will last us forever.  No, we didn't traverse any ropes courses or do any push-ups, but instead we learned how to balance our time between school, family, friends, faith and most importantly, taking time for ourselves - something I've really been lacking on for nearly a year now.  

The thought of sharing a room with a stranger was a little unsettling for me.  Then I saw our tiny room and realized how close we were actually going to become over the next 3 nights.  Notice the lack of'll need to go down the hallway to find the community restroom with 3 showers, 3 toilet stalls and 3 freestanding sinks.  One gets pretty friendly with everyone when you're all trying to brush your teeth at the same time.  They say love grows best in little houses, and I can see why.

I was housed in the Haggin Quarters which was erected in 1949 for the Frontier Nursing Service nurses.

 My room mate and I on the swing on the back porch.  Heather and I had "met" somewhat on a casual Facebook page and we got along great.

 On most of the campus, there was limited cell phone reception.  Unless, you want to stand out in the middle of the woods looking for a signal.  I tried to call home once a day to check in and let everyone know how much I missed them.  I got to see fireflies while talking on the fun!

I think the faculty and staff get just as excited to see us, and I can imagine that they get a kick out of the excitement we all bring to campus.

 It took nearly all day between flights and the 2+ hour bus drive from the Lexington Airport to the school.  After getting off the plane in KY, there was a table by baggage claim welcoming the FNU students and we all hung out there sizing each other up waiting for the motor coach to take us to the school.  I knew we were in for a good ride when Stephanie from FNU welcomed us and then announced for us to not be nervous on the drive, the bus driver has driven this route for a long time.  It was later on the drive when I realized some of the roads are about as wide was the bus that I realized why she warned us.  It was nice to pull up to the school at nearly dusk and see the chapel light on.

Some of the buildings...

Haggin Dorm

The Barn - really, this used to be a barn and was reconstructed into classrooms. 

This building has the registrar, the store and a few other key places. 

There were a lot of steps heading down to the barn.  I'm so out of shape,  my legs were sore from all the climbing.  I contemplated just laying down on the lawn and rolling down the hill a few times.  

Another view of the Haggin Dorm.  I stayed on the second floor, and so when I forgot anything in my room, I'd run up the ramp and up the stairs to get whatever I'd left behind. I quickly learned to stop leaving things behind.

 A view of the chapel.
 Some of our peers got to stay in Mardi Cottage - where it seemed they had a better girl-to-bathroom ratio, but in Haggin, we were closer to the food, so it all works out in the end.  There are classrooms on the bottom level of Mardi...why yes, those are more stairs!

There's just something amazing about sitting in a classroom setting inside a barn that used to hold the horses for the Frontier Nursing Service and knowing that husband would ride their horses to the very area that you were to call for a nurse to come see their wife, child or anyone else in need of medical care.  

  There were lots of mosquitoes, so we didn't spend much time sitting out at night, but I did enjoy the outside as often as I could while I was there.  Notice the paintings on the wall there...each class leaves a little legacy behind to inspire the class behind them.

 Did I mention the stairs?  

There were tons of old books all over campus.  I seriously could live there.  If Yankee Candle could come up with an "old book" smelling candle, I'd be the first in line to buy one.  

We were broken into groups by our major and geographical zone so that we could get to know each other better and form a support system for one another.  Above is Team Pink (the color we were assigned at check-in), with a poster we made during the Student Services break-out session. 

Walking to Mardi Cottage for a class, we came across a bird's nest with beautiful eggs inside.  Careful not to get too close, many of us took pictures.

During the computer break-out session, I opened my laptop and logged into the Banyan Tree and saw all of our names...yay!
 Tuesday night was time for the big dinner at Wendover (Mary Breckenridge's house), where we were wined and dined and enjoyed bonding with our faculty and each other.   We had to ride in a school bus (with no seat belts) through the back bumpy roads of rural Kentucky.

 I'm not sure where the other Mary is in this picture...she's from Seminole, Fl.  But here is a picture of all of us (minus Mary M.) from Florida.  So funny that I get to the middle of rural KY and meet 3 nurses that work for Winnie Palmer (my hospital's competitor about 5 minutes away) and one that works in my hospital system but on another campus.  We'll be forming some study groups over the next couple of years. Here we are on the stairs pretending to ring the bell (more on that later).

After getting to Wendover, we toured the barn, which had many of the FNS items on display.

Teresa looking super-cute in the barn. 

The doll was made of corn husk.

More from the FNS

Saddle bags for storing all of the nursing supplies.  The only thing that kept these bags on the horse was the nurse's behind.  The children in the mountains believed that the nurses brought the babies in their saddlebags instead of by stork, because the kids would wake up to see a nurse there with the horse outside with the saddlebags and see mom with a new baby. 

The Garden House at Wendover

Me and Kristen who is amazing and has an awesome blog HERE.

Hanging outside at Wendover enjoying cheese and wine.

Bethany (that's her adorable baby), Kristen and Me at the dinner at Wendover.

Me and Kitty Ernst.  It would take me all day to write about the amazingness of Kitty Ernst, and her pioneering efforts for Frontier Nursing University.  Here is a small except from Kitty Ernst; I am forever grateful for the time we spent together and feel so inspired to do more both in my community and globally to change the women and infant mortality and mobidity statistics.  

Wendover all nice and quiet.  I can only imagine how lovely it must have been to live here.  The dinner was amazing, and to be breaking bread together in a home so strongly routed in women's health history was just awe-inspiring.  Before the meal was served, we circled up, and sang Amazing Grace arm in arm.

I took this picture for my awesome husband holding down the fort back home.  He's a huge Toyota fan, and it made me chuckle to see that the FNS has moved forward from horses to Tacomas.  

 After dinner, we all went back to the school campus to hang out in the kitchen there and talk with Kitty Ernst.  This is the dining room in the Haggin Dorm where we ate all of our meals (except for the dinner at Wendover).

 Oops, this one got out of order...this is the dinner at Wendover, I'm in the lower left hand corner wearing a black sweater.

Wednesday morning we found ourselves back in our break-out groups (go Team Pink!), for more team building and grad school orientation.
 Over in the Mardi Cottage classrooms, Teresa sneaks a peek under the sheet.

 The Mardi Cottage classroom also double as our exam rooms when we return for Clinical Bound.

 During lunchtime a local artisan came to visit with some amazing woodwork for sale.

Another group shot of some of us on the Pink Team, and Heather's sweet little 3 month old baby.

 On our last night at Frontier Bound, we had the Follies.  Follies is a when each group comes up with a skit, song, or something funny to present to the whole group.  The big rule here is "what happens at Follies, stays at Follies" - so that's all I'm saying about that.

After circling up one last time, ringing the bell and follies, none of us wanted to go to bed because we all head our separate ways in the morning, so we all congregated in The Living Womb.  Imagine somewhere between 20-25 of us laughing and talking until the wee hours of the morning, crammed into this room.  Our apologies to anyone trying to sleep.

 The Living Womb has a brick over the fireplace that is from Florence Nightingale's home.  We all took turns rubbing it for good luck.
 My dorm room was the garden room.  Each room has a theme that it has been decorated with and as I get to know other past and present students, usually everyone asks what room you stayed in.  It is customary to sign over your bed along the vine in the garden room.

 Following along....I signed my name on the wall. 

My room was 205.

And directly across from my room was a friendly face to greet me every morning....

Amy and I worked together at Kodiak Island Medical Associates in Kodiak, Alaska and she was one of the nurses with us when Megan was born. I had planned on going through the program originally with her, but then life got in the way and I hemmed and hawed and didn't get my butt in gear, but now after some gentle prodding and lots of praying, life seems to be moving me back in this direction.

What is this CIRCLE UP business?  

Back in the covered wagon days, the wagons would circle up to form a greater barrier against intruders, and strengthen their group.  At the end of every day at Frontier, everyone - faculty and students in all of the programs, circle up to share about their day.  On the first night, we also sung the school song.  As mentioned, we circled up at Mary Breckenridge's house and sung Amazing Grace. 

From the FNU Handbook:

C = Compassion
I= Innovation
R= Reflection
C = Community
L = Legacy
E = Excellence

P = Primary Care

It makes my heart swell to think about all of us that share a common goal filling one room and then going on our separate ways to struggle with our own lives while working on furthering our education to help others.  

Before leaving for the trip home, I checked out all of the artwork on the walls one last time...

 This was one of my favorites...Welcome to Pap Camp and a Wet Mount.  You'll probably have to be a FNU student to chuckle at it.

Most students leave artwork behind to inspire others in their closet, so Heather and I got creative and left behind a little something for the future ladies that will travel through our room.... *blush*

I should add that yes, there are men that come to this school too, they just don't stay with the ladies.  In our group, we had one lone, amazing, family-committed, God-loving man and I really enjoyed getting to know him.  He's going to make an amazing Nurse Practitioner.  Thank goodness Frontier Bound is only a few days, though, any longer and I'm sure he would have sprouted a Fallopian Tube hanging around with all of us.

 As the herd of us ran through the airport in Lexington, I'm sure we doubled the amount of business that poor airport sees in one day.  Nearly all of us were decked out in our FNU gear, ready to carry on the legacy of the amazing nurses that have gone before us.

My friend, Samantha and me.  Sam and I worked together in the NICU and she moved onto something closer to her home.  While working together I told her about Frontier and she applied and was accepted to my class.  I am so excited to have a fabulous friend to take this journey with.  We won't be in all of the same classes, but we'll interact plenty during this journey.  I was so glad to travel up to KY and back with her, traveling with a friend is always twice as much fun.  

My final picture in this crazy-long post is of me ringing the bell.  It is tradition on the last evening at Frontier Bound to line up to ring the bell on the top of the chapel.  It's the start of a new journey.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mary,
I didn't realize you were going to school to be a widwife. How very brave of you! Here I am just beginning my bachelor's. As always, you have my admiration.


Anonymous said...

Ummm how amazing are you??? I can't believe you put all of the time and effort into posting thorough!! It was really fun seeing all the pics, I'm gonna totally have to steal them from you someday! :)

Dawn said...

I'm headed to Frontier Bound next week. I'm so excited. If love to hear about your journey so far at Frontier. I live in Florida as well :-))) here is my email dawn(dot)erdwein(at)gmail(dot)com