Nurse Avery Brennan ’21 Uses Her Liberal Education Background on the Job

Avery Brennan ’21 graduated from Colby-Sawyer’s undergraduate nursing program in May 2021. Two weeks later, the Portland, Maine, native passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and a week after that, she started working as a nurse at an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Maine.

In the two and a half years since her graduation, Avery has developed a diverse professional portfolio. Her first positions were in an adult detox/mental health unit, then the adult psychiatric intensive care unit (ICU), where, before long, she was promoted to charge nurse.

“[The charge nurse position] has been my favorite job to date,” Avery said. “I learned so much in the adult psychiatric ICU about patient care, the legal system and improving my leadership skills.”

Unsure if psychiatric care was the right fit for her, Avery also explored career opportunities in other areas. She earned Botox and dermal filler certification, worked at a dermatology office that provided both aesthetic and medical services, provided care through a home health agency and worked as an infusion nurse, providing concierge intravenous and intramuscular services. At the same time, she started graduate school in Husson University’s family nurse practitioner program.

In November 2023, Avery accepted a position as staff development coordinator and infection preventionist at Seal Rock Healthcare at Atlantic Heights, a continuum of care company with independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care in Saco, Maine.

“What I like most about being a nurse is the ability to advocate for the better of another person,” Avery said. “I have already been put in many situations in which my intervention altered the outcome for a patient tremendously. I think being a voice for someone who may not have one, or even may not feel that they have one, is one of the most rewarding feelings.”

She credits the Colby-Sawyer nursing program for preparing her well for the various positions she has held by exposing her to “almost every field of nursing.” More than that, though, she sees the value of her entire academic experience in preparing her for the work she’s doing now.

“I’m using my Colby-Sawyer experience in my work every day,” Avery said. “A liberal arts curriculum provided me with a holistic education that extends beyond the technical skills required for my profession as a nurse. I have benefited significantly from the diverse range of subjects encompassed in a liberal arts education. Courses in literature, sociology, psychology and philosophy, among others, equip nurses with a well-rounded understanding of human behavior, diversity and ethical considerations. This broader perspective enhances their ability to communicate effectively with patients from a vast variety of backgrounds, fostering a more compassionate and patient-centered approach to care.”

In fact, as she harkens back to her college education while she is on the job, Avery said it is often those non-clinical lessons she draws on most.

“I find I pull information from my liberal arts courses the most in my nursing care,” she said. “The medical field changes so rapidly but having a strong foundation of understanding individuals as people, and not their diagnoses, has enabled me to provide the best care I can, and I am so grateful to Colby-Sawyer for that.”

Avery said she is excited to see what the future brings and she hopes to have a long, successful career in nursing leadership. Right now, she sees herself working in women’s health as a nurse practitioner but says she is keeping her mind open to other possibilities. For now, she is enjoying her work, her studies and her six-month-old Great Dane, Yogi, who, she said, takes up all her non-nursing time.

The outcomes reports from the Harrington Center for Experiential Learning indicate that, like Avery, 99% of the Class of 2021 and 100% of the Class of 2022 were employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation.Read more  about Colby-Sawyer graduate outcomes.