Treating One Person, Caring for the Community
Vie Lucas ’13 will never forget the couple who was involved in an accident. One person survived; the partner did not.
Lucas, a mental-health nurse for Milwaukee County, says the survivor was brought directly from the accident to the psychiatric emergency room where she works. Lucas noted that her patient appeared to have lost the will to live. “It was right before a holiday. The patient had small children and didn’t know how to explain what had happened.”
Lucas and her colleagues provided immediate mental health care for the patient at a time of significant trauma and also connected the patient and family members to ongoing support. “The fact that we made first contact and helped guide the patient to a better direction was extremely powerful,” she says.
Lucas, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Alverno, has learned to view each patient through a complex lens. Not only does she consider the patient as an individual, but she also considers a patient’s personal story and the world in which they live. She knows that by helping one patient, she’s also helping that person’s family, friends, colleagues and community.
“It’s so much more than someone’s mental health diagnosis. You’re also treating the family and the environment,” she says. “One person affects so many other people.”
Recognizing the many ways that an individual’s health is intertwined with the community’s well-being, and vice versa, is what makes Alverno’s health care programs unique. Alverno alums like Lucas bring this wide lens to their work, as well as a sense of mission and confidence to pursue that mission.
“Alverno helped to bring out something in me that I didn’t know about myself,” says Lucas. “I learned to have more confidence as a woman. I learned to believe in myself and to know that I can take on any challenge.”
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges Lucas faced was deciding to detour from her plan of putting her Alverno Nursing degree to work as a labor and delivery nurse. Instead, she answered a call for mental health nurses in Milwaukee County’s psychiatric crisis services unit.
“It’s literally an emergency room for mental health,” she says. “We work with the most vulnerable people in the community. We don’t turn anyone away.”
Lucas and her colleagues do more than treat patients’ immediate needs. They also form relationships and advocate for long-term care solutions to everything from co-existing mental health issues and substance abuse to children in unhealthy environments to survivors of domestic violence. “We try our best to encourage, advocate, and be there for each and every patient,” she says.
Thriving in her career, Lucas is now spreading the word about the need for mental health nurses, who are in short supply in Milwaukee and around the country. “I wouldn’t choose to work anywhere else,” she says. “I know that every day I’m making a difference in someone’s life.”
This article originally appeared in the spring 2018 issue of Alverno Magazine.
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