S14_Empower_BurkeIn 1970, my career began in the emergency room as a recent graduate of Hartford Hospital’s School of Nursing. I was not old enough to vote or drink, but I was able to deliver a baby.

I moved to Boston in 1973 and applied for an RN position at Massachusetts General Hospital. When I was asked during the interview if I had a bachelor’s degree, I had to admit that I’d taken courses but hadn’t com-pleted the requirements for a bachelor’s. Despite this, I got the job and began working in the surgical intensive care unit. I was determined to complete my degree.

Fortunately, Northeastern had a new Nursing Interim Program that enabled diploma graduates, like me, to earn BSN degrees. Most nursing colleges weren’t awarding credit to professionals for past academic and clinical achievements, or the option of credit by examination—so Northeastern was unique.

Days were a blur of lectures, exams, papers, and clinical requirements; nights were busy working full time in the intensive care unit. I worked every weekend to have two weekdays open for class. Nancy Walden, the program’s director, was outstanding in helping me coordinate requisites. Specialized and department exams, plus a condensed course schedule while temporarily living in Ohio, kept me busy. I returned to Northeastern, completed my community health requirement, and resumed my job at MGH. It was demanding but I remained undaunted. I achieved dean’s list every semester and graduated in September 1976.

I became the surgical clinician at Hartford Hospital, and later assistant head nurse. But after earning my master of public administration from the University of Hartford, I switched careers and joined Aetna Insurance Company as a medical underwriter. While at Aetna, I continued working evenings at the hospital.

My Northeastern degree provided a new level of professionalism, required for advancement in nursing. The university’s innovative Nursing Interim Program influenced my work as a caregiver, manager, and risk taker. Throughout my career, I encouraged creative thinking and educational opportunities for my staff.  

In 2006, I was inspired to create a $100,000 endowed scholarship for Northeastern nursing students. It has been very gratifying to support our future caregivers.

I encourage alumni to reflect on all the successes the university made possible and to help other young women and men pursue their degrees, goals, and careers.