Rural Health Scholarship recipient
For the first 10 years of her career, Nicole Lappin was an EKG tech for Mednet Healthcare Technologies in Ewing, New Jersey. But after losing a friend to a drug overdose in 2003, she decided to make a change.
“I saw him and other family members struggle through mental health and substance abuse problems and not have access to treatment, and I had a strong desire to make a difference,” says Nicole, who is originally from Philadelphia. She enrolled in nursing school, graduated in 2007, and got a job at Livengrin Foundation, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. It is the same facility that helped her own father become sober, which he has stayed for over 35 years.
From Livengrin, Nicole moved into behavioral health, working in several different acute psychiatric units. She also tried out the Emergency Room but realized that working with patients with psychiatric conditions and substance use disorders is her passion. Over the course of the next several years, Nicole’s career took her from Pennsylvania to Florida and eventually North Carolina, where she has lived since 2014.
A desire for further education
In 2011, while still in Florida and working at an eating disorder and private rehabilitation center, Nicole decided to return to school for a Bachelor of Science Nursing.
“I’d always wanted to get the BSN but I had babies and a career and just had to put it on hold for a while,” she says. She did a lot of research and discovered American Sentinel University. “I talked to other universities but American Sentinel’s people really made the difference. They were supportive and helpful. I was apprehensive about balancing everything else in my life along with school, but they encouraged me.” Nicole graduated with the BSN in 2013.
A move to North Carolina and a plan
In 2014, Nicole and her family moved to Black Mountain, North Carolina, a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although continuing her education was on her mind—her end game was always to earn the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner—she needed to get settled in her new home first.
Nicole became a charge nurse for Julian F. Keith Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center and started making her MSN plans. She started thinking about the positive feedback she had received as the go-to nurse to train other nurses. “I’ve always loved mentoring and teaching others,” Nicole says. “I decided that I would start with the MSN Nursing Education so that if I ever decide to teach, I would be able to do so.”
Two MSN degrees
In 2018, Nicole moved to the quiet area of Franklin, where her family had vacationed many times before. With her MSN Nursing Education underway, she got hired by the local community college, Southwestern Community College. While there, Nicole expanded the nursing program to elaborate on its psychiatric nursing component. After graduating with the MSN in Nursing Education in 2019, she started the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner program and will graduate in 2020.
Changing the world
In late 2019, Nicole stepped away from the community college to accept a position at Hazelwood Healthcare, a new addiction medicine practice in Franklin. “In rural areas like this, there is stigma around substance use disorder treatment,” she says. “We want to change that.” After finishing the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner, Nicole would like to became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and help Hazelwood add a primary care component to its services. “We want people who have fallen through the cracks to get the treatment they need and live full lives.”
Rural Health Scholar
In April 2020, Nicole learned that she was a winner of American Sentinel University’s Rural Health Scholarship for which she had applied. “It was really exciting and a big help,” she says. “The recognition means a lot, as anything that gives more attention to the opioid epidemic warms my heart. Earning a scholarship helps me reach my goals of getting more interest in the disparities of this type of patient. It validates that what I’m doing matters.”
American Sentinel has created the Rural Health scholarship program to help healthcare providers and patients overcome obstacles that are different than those in urban areas. Eight scholarships are awarded per year. Congratulations to this quarter’s recipients. Learn more and apply here.