Alumni Tale: Sally Powell ’09

What did you study at UNH?

Nursing, Health and Human Services

What are you currently doing? What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Currently, I work for a community mental health organization for Boulder county in Colorado. Specifically, as an RN working with the jail population once they are released to community probation. My team here helps reduce recidivism, support their mental health recovery, and probation needs through medication monitoring, individual and group therapy, and other resources.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known while an undergrad?

If someone would have told me that you will pass your boards, you will get a job, you will confidently advocate on behalf of your patients and families, you will love what you do, and you will make a difference in your community. Hearing that as an undergrad would have helped my nerves tremendously!

What experiences and/or people have had significant impacts on your career journey?

Experienced nurses I worked with at an inpatient psychiatric facility, Dale, Suki, Angie, and Kathy, had great impacts on who I am as a nurse and a patient and family advocate. These nurses were true psychiatric nurses at their core, knowing not only what to say but how to say it and so much more. At my first community health organization, Kristiana Avery NP, was invaluable in teaching me the intricacies of community vs inpatient mental health nursing during an important part of my career. She constantly champions me to pursue certifications and higher education, and it’s been nice having someone like that in your corner.

Based on your experiences and education, what skills do you think have been the most helpful in your career?

Flexibility! As a nurse, things can go several different ways: orders change, client presentation alters, crises happen, and so on. It is knowing all these variables and still being able to duck and weave through all the chaos to serve your patients the best way you can.

Teamwork! Multidisciplinary teams are a crucial aspect to nursing. Having the interpersonal skills to be able to work within an always fluctuating team is vital.

How did you obtain your first job after graduation? What steps did you take, and what would you recommend to others?

I graduated in 2009 when things weren’t great economy wise. I applied online to several inpatient facilities specifically for psychiatric nursing positions. Psychiatric nurses are always needed so this was helpful. I also followed up and wrote emails or made calls to hiring directors or nurse managers to try to get a foot in the door.

What advice do you have for students interested in your field?

One thing I did during high school was shadow a few nurses at their jobs. Seeing the day to day aspects of their job, made this profession more tangible to me and gave me a better perspective of what I wanted to pursue. Also, get your BSN if possible. It’s been extremely helpful career-wise to have this degree instead of going the associate’s route.