A native French speaker from Quebec wasn't responding well to care at a medical center in Madison, Georgia this fall.
She was confused, unreceptive to treatment and not receiving the best care she could. But when graduating nursing senior, Claire Halloran, entered the room with a cheerful, "bonjour madame," everything changed.
"She just lit up," Halloran said, "it was like night and day. I figured it would help, but I just had no idea how big of an impact it would make."
Immediately Halloran's patient relaxed with a much softer, receptive disposition. And though Halloran isn't qualified to speak medical French, her friendly greetings and casual chat made a real difference in her patient's comfort.
"That was one of my favorite nursing days ever," Halloran said. "It was so clear that she felt so much more seen and understood. It was just so special, because I really wasn't sure if that was something I'd ever get to live out."
I want to be a knowledgeable nurse, I want to be a capable nurse. But above all, I want to be an empathetic nurse.
- Claire Halloran
When she graduates from her nursing cohort in December, Halloran will have also completed two minors: French and women and gender studies.
Originally, she pursued French after taking it at Lassiter High School. As she explored the language at Georgia College & State University, however, she learned the value of embracing world cultures, and the impact it can make on your perspective.
"I want to encourage anybody, especially nursing students, to pursue a language even if it's just a few courses," Halloran said. "I think being able to communicate with patients in their first language, making that additional effort to make them feel comfortable and heard, can make such a difference in a patients' care."
"Anywhere that you're going to work, you're going to encounter a variety of languages and a variety of cultures," she said. "Being well versed in how to receive those cultures, and how to approach them and appreciate them, is going to improve the level of compassion and empathy you can give those patients."
Truly living the liberal arts experience, Halloran wanted to understand the social background of women and approach her new career with a background in social science.
Claire chose courses that fit her interests and made a unique program of study.
Initially intending to work in women's health, Halloran thought the minor would help her understand the complexity of issues faced by people of other genders. Even though she's changed course to progressive care, Halloran's unique experience will improve her understanding of the people she'll care for-ultimately giving them a better experience.
Her mentor, Dr. Marcia Henry, lecturer of nursing, modeled true patient compassion for Halloran.
"It's just so incredible to watch somebody become so educated and retain such compassion and empathy," Halloran said. "She walked alongside me to set that example, encouraged me and make me feel like I had an outlet-somebody who was specifically looking after me to make sure I had the resources I needed."
In addition to pointers and guidance, Henry has been an advocate for Halloran and all nursing students, actively trying to always improve the nursing program.
"Mentorship means so much to me; I love working with each student and helping them navigate their path to becoming a nurse," Henry said. "Claire made a distinct impression on me the first day I met her in the hospital. I was delighted to be her mentor for her final clinical course and I'm so happy to hear her talk about her career plans."
"Her positivity just shines through everything she does," Henry said. "Claire has excelled in nursing school, and I know she's going to do the same at the bedside."
After graduation, Halloran will begin working as a progressive care unit nurse at Northside Hospital Gwinnett. There, she'll spend time and attention with patients who need extra care-a challenge she's happy to accept.
"As I got into the nursing cohort, I really found my niche," Halloran said. "Seeing all this effort I've put in come together and impact my patients has really taught me the value of hard work, the value of a diverse and well-rounded education and given me the courage to pursue my education in a way that's unique to me."
"It's just given me a really great appreciation for a lifetime of learning," she said.