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Life After Retirement...
From Nurse Practitioner to Fundraiser 
Norma Osborn, ACNP
March 2020

Ever wonder what to do when you retire?
I did often. Would I include a nursing role or not? What would happen to my “clinical brain” that I loved? Perhaps my journey into retirement might help you imagine what you will do.

In September of 2019 it became apparent that retirement was coming sooner than I had planned. I had been a very healthy middle aged woman swimming in 1 mile ocean, river, and pond races (to finish not to win). I also enjoyed biking and gardening. Unfortunately, after 46 years of lifting many patients and working long hours, I had a planned anterior and posterior low spinal fusion followed at 6 months by an unexpected left total hip replacement.

My career stopped abruptly. My clinical brain turned off. I spent many hours at home between many hours of physical therapy in a gym and a heated therapy pool followed by much needed naps. I really missed my clinical brain clicking along in the intensive care units, my heart failure clinics, and in the thoracic surgery units where I taught nursing students about lung transplants.

Many hours at home may sound really boring. Fortunately one of my planned retirement projects soon began. First some explanation about my activities outside the clinical areas. In the early 1990s I had begun teaching overseas. One memorable trip was to Miraj, in Maharastra state in southern India with my then brother-in-law who was setting up a cardiac catheterization lab. My focus there was to teach some basic intensive care skills to the ICU nurses, and to talk with senior students in the nursing school answering their questions about nursing in general and in the USA. The initial request at the school was to talk about the entire history of nursing in the USA! I was not exactly prepared to answer that big question. However, when I broke that question down into each student asking a smaller specific question we had a very good afternoon of conversation. The trip was so eye opening in terms of nursing progress despite intense poverty, minimal resources, high mortality, and a very hierarchical system. I realized that I could feel comfortable and work in those conditions. One of my future goals became trying to assist nurses in impoverished areas of the world.

Several years later I was trying to think of a way to honor my Mom after she had died and left me a small sum of money. My Mom was an RN who volunteered for World War II, worked in California, and in her later years enjoyed being interviewed by nursing students. She and my Dad were very involved in our local Presbyterian church. Through the national church my Mom’s dual interests came together when I set up a scholarship fund for the Faculté des Sciences Infirmières de l’Université Episcopale d'Haiti a Leogane’ (FSIL) after some interesting conversations with members of the Board of Directors of Haiti Nursing Foundation, the 501c3 charity that funds the school.

FSIL was co-founded in 2005 by a professor emerita of nursing at my nursing school, University of Michigan. FSIL was the first BSN nursing school in Haiti and is the #1 nursing school in Haiti now according to the Ministry of Health. You may know that this year is ten years since the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake. Those young women in the CNN TV pictures at the epicenter of the earthquake at the reported “makeshift first aid station” were actually all levels of FSIL nursing students between the buildings of the cracked nursing school in Leogane caring for their neighbors with their Dean until 10 days later when international help arrived. I called CNN to report what I saw and asked if they could perhaps contact the Dean at FSIL. The CNN staffer asked me for the phone number of the earthquake damaged school! I “suggested” that she contact her reporter at the school as I suspected that any phones at FSIL would not be in use. The reporter ended up locating the Dean and interviewing her.

All this is to say that there was a winding path to my retirement project with hints of what I was going to do along the way. After the earthquake I again contacted the Haiti Nursing Foundation (HNF) Board of Directors to discuss becoming more involved in FSIL. I attend the delayed FSIL graduation. Graduation was usually held at the National Cathedral with spectacular Haitian murals at the altar and beautiful stained glass windows along the sides. Sadly, the National Cathedral had collapsed in the earthquake. I began contributing to HNF and FSIL by trying to begin an alumna association, assisting in funding and planning a conference on lowering the high Haitian infant mortality rate, by mentoring a 2014 FSIL graduated who received a Fulbright Scholarship to Harvard Medical School’s Global Health Delivery Program, and then working on my retirement project…..planning and co-hosting a fundraiser for HNF for the FSIL school’s new combined Nurse Midwifery/Family Nurse Practitioner Master’s program.

It turns out that those many hours at home healing from my surgeries were not all boring. I have worked with fellow NP Joanne Pohl, PhD, ANP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, a recent former HNF President and Professor Emerita, University of Michigan School of Nursing, and a small committee in creating what will be a fun, lively fundraiser in partnership with the Haitian Artists Assembly of Massachusetts.

It all reminds me of Patricia Benner’s Novice to Expert Model. Remember those levels of proficiency in the acquiring and developing of a skill: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert. I retired as an expert Nurse Practitioner and proficient university level Clinical Nursing Instructor. Now I am becoming an enthusiastic and competent fundraiser planner with a goal of raising funds to contribute to the education of the first Nurse Midwife/Family Nurse Practitioners in Haiti. These NM/FNPs will be able to provide complete primary to women, men, and kids all over Haiti. They will make a significant dent in the statistic of only 0.65 doctors, nurses, and midwives per 1,000 people in a population of 10.9 million. How better to honor those now graduated nursing students who cared for their neighbors at the FSIL school after the 2010 earthquake?

Little by little I am learning skills that I never anticipated to continue to contribute to nursing and improved health in impoverished populations. I don’t miss my clinical brain so much anymore. I know it’s still there absorbing new skills and knowledge as always.

What better way to keep busy in retirement?! What will you do?

Ticket and donation/sponsorship information for the Haiti Nursing Foundation (HNF) Fundraiser on Saturday, April 25, 2020, at Community Rowing, Inc. in Brighton, MA, maybe seen on the web site.

Norma Osborn, MS, RN, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

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