I asked Kendra Loebs, Puget Sound class of ’06, to tell me a little bit about what she’s been up to since graduating. Here’s a brief description of her interesting journey!
I’ve always been particularly interested in medical anthropology and healthcare beliefs. My first year post-UPS found me traveling around the world (primarily to Morocco, India, and Thailand) as a Thomas J Watson fellow exploring this topic. I focused my Watson project around how traditional manual therapies such as massage fit into the larger healthcare landscapes of various countries. Once back in the US and after working in various medical settings, I decided to go back to school for a degree in nursing.
Cultural competence is a hugely important topic in the field of healthcare, and it’s growing ever more important as healthcare systems strive to make care more effective and relevant to diverse populations. I dove right into this world by working at Harborview as a nursing student. This hospital is well-known for serving a very diverse immigrant, homeless, psychiatric, and incarcerated population, in addition to being a top-notch trauma center. The experience was incredibly humbling and inspired me to learn more about culturally-sensitive care. With the support of my nursing professors, I performed a qualitative research project where I analyzed a program in which Harborview nurses follow the rigid rules of a diabetic lifestyle for just a few days to see how it influenced their understanding and perceptions of those who live with diabetes. Not surprisingly, standing in the shoes of individuals with a challenging chronic disease was an eye-opening and impactful experience for everyone who participated!
Being a nurse is similar in many ways to being an anthropologist, and I am grateful every day for my training in anthropology. Like anthropologists, nurses must quickly build trust and connection with those we serve. We often ask for very private information, sometimes from vulnerable people. We see the best and the worst of humanity. We are present for the most painful and joyful moments in the lives of strangers. We interact closely with people from all walks of life, and must consistently communicate effectively, professionally, personally, and sensitively with each of them.
As an RN at the UW I’ve had the opportunity to take graduate classes in public health and medical anthropology. One of the most relevant assignments I’ve completed was an investigation how nurses can most effectively support patients and families at the end of life using applied anthropological theory. I’ve also been able to utilize my skills as a volunteer RN for the Public Health Department’s Medical Reserve Corps. The most inspiring opportunities so far were working in a 2-day Veterans health fair and at the Seattle Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic, which was a huge 4-day event that provided thousands of people with free health care, dental care, and vision care.
One day I hope to officially continue my education and become an Advanced Practice Nurse. I’m also very interested in teaching and doing more qualitative research someday. Fortunately, there are many possibilities to do all of this because nursing as a field is increasingly robust with opportunities to make a meaningful difference in the world. Though my path may have been winding, I am exceedingly grateful for the broad liberal arts education that I received at Puget Sound. The close relationships with professors and the questions that my studies there inspired have allowed me to recognize and actively pursue many exciting opportunities in my work as a nurse.