As the parent of a patient, Ann LaFollette learned a lot about nurses.
“My daughter, Bernadette, is the person who most influenced my decision to become a nurse,” Ann LaFollette BSN ’22 explains. “I was a software product manager before I left to become a mom for many years. Although I didn't feel like being a software product manager gave me gave me great fulfillment in life, it was not the reason why I chose to become a nurse.”
The main reason was Bernadette, who was born with a complicated, complex congenital heart defect and who passed away at the age of 15 from multiple medical complications. At first, Ann, who grew up in Gloucester Township, NJ, and has lived in the Boston area since she graduated from Boston College with a degree in French, quit her job to care for Bernadette. Her motivation to take her career in a completely different direction was inspired by her observations and interactions with Bernadette’s nurses.
“I spent a lot of time at Children's Hospital with her as an inpatient and at various outpatient appointments,” Ann recalls. “Caring for Bernadette taught me a lot of nursing skills as well as medical knowledge.”
After spending so much time at Children's Hospital to care for her daughter, Ann continues, “I realized that, not only did I feel comfortable in the medical/healthcare setting, but also, the people I met who were in the profession were the kind of people towards whom I gravitated.”
One of those people was Marlene Pelletier, a pediatric nurse who spent most of her 40-year career caring for cardiac patients at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“I don’t recall Ann ever mentioning to me that she was considering a career in nursing,” Marlene says. “I do recall, however, that she seemed to so naturally understand the complexities of Bernadette’s condition and always asked thoughtful and very intelligent questions. She was always eager to learn and was amazing caring for Bernadette. Her observations were spot on when Bernadette experienced changes in her condition.”
Marlene noticed that “Ann didn’t treat Bernadette as a sick child and allowed her all these experiences.” She saw “this skill [as] a gift she can share with others.”
When Ann finally announced her decision to make a career change, Marlene “was so surprised, but I knew Ann would soar through nursing school and her experiences would share many important lessons to her peers in school. She has an understanding of both sides of the coin and a perspective that should be valued.”
Ann says, “I've been fortunate to have some good clinical instructors.” She took Maternal-Child Nursing with Assistant Professor Kathleen Pender-Phaneuf. “Her integrity is exceptional, which is her outstanding quality,” Dr. Pender-Phaneuf says. “I am proud to know Ann. Her motivation for pursuing nursing is selfless. She suffered a devastating loss of a child which she shared with me during one class day. I feel she wants to become a nurse to give back, enhance her knowledge in medical conditions, and provide nursing care to families as nurses did for her and her family during her child's illness and subsequent passing.”
“It's been a whirlwind,” she reflects. “The 16 months go by very quickly.”