"My aunt, Mary, was a country nurse in Ireland. I got to go with her from house to house as she visited her patients. What I witnessed was the love and care expressed by my aunt, and the sincere appreciation expressed by her patients."

Role Model Photo Kathleen Gately

Health Field: Registered Nurse

Number of years in the profession:
15 year

Years in College: 8 years

Professional Credentials:
R.N., May 1993 M.S.W. - Social Gerontology specialty, May 1995

How did you know this career was what you wanted to do?
I turned 17 years old in December, and could have officially graduated high school at the age of 16. I wanted to stay in school so I could play tennis and volleyball, so my Spring semester was filled with electives. Having worked in my parents' restaurant since I was 8 years old, I decided I needed a break from school and work, so I worked for 4 years. When I was 21, I considered becoming a medical secretary, and took a medical terminology course. I found that I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and decided to become a pediatrician, but decided the time required was more than I was willing to give. I went to The University of Texas at Austin and changed my major to nursing, then to social work. Over time, I still had the strong desire to work in the medical field, so I left my job in Minnesota and returned to Texas and completed nursing school in 2 years.

What other careers did you consider?
While in high school, I had teachers and coaches who were encouraging me to become a high school basketball/tennis/track/volleyball coach. I also considered becoming a pediatrician, a high school English teacher, and later, a paralegal.

What experiences in your life developed your interest in your career?
It is said that the greatest motivator is success! I learned the importance of hard work and earned recognition in sports, school, and my personal life. I earned it all --- nothing was ever handed to me. I had teachers and coaches who nurtured me and believed in my abilities. But the single most important life experience came when I was 13 years old. My parents are from Ireland, and my siblings and I had never met our relatives. So, during the Fall of my freshman year, my parents took us to Ireland for 5 weeks. My mother's sister, Mary, was a country nurse and would travel the Ring of Kerry going from house to house to visit her patients. Whenever she would ask which one of us wanted to go with her, I was always eager to go, and luckily my brother and two sisters did not care to go. What I witnessed was the love and care expressed by my aunt, and the sincere appreciation expressed by her patients. This left a lasting impression on me.

What early preparations did you take (in high school and college) to reach your career goal?
Mostly hard work. During my internship for my Bachelors of Social Work degree, I worked as a drop-out prevention counselor at a public high school in Austin, Texas. I worked with the teen mothers at the on-site day care where the mothers were required to work 1 hour each day as part of their elective. This helped me years later when I worked with the Oklahoma State Department of Health as a Children First nurse where I visited first-time mothers while they were pregnant and continued to visit them until their child turned 2 years old.

What things did you find to be difficult as you prepared for your career?
Finances and the lack of family support.

How did you overcome these challenges?
Finances were always a problem as I was responsible for paying 100% of my education. While I was a full time student, I also worked 40+ hours a week. I received grants and took out student loans. Financially, my family was not supportive; however, I was able to live with my mother for almost 2 years while I went to nursing school. My family did not always understand that I did not have much free time. And, there was jealousy among certain family members. But I earned my education because I persevered and knew that once I had my degrees (I have 3) that NO ONE could ever take that away from me!

Was your family supportive of you through your college (or other training) years?

Did you have a job and work while you were going to college or other training? Yes

Present Career as a Registered Nurse

Describe an average work day for you.
I work 8 - 5 Monday through Friday as the Director of Quality Improvement / Risk Management. I enjoy the variety that comes with my position. I can not predict what will happen one day to the next. In addition to Quality Improvement and Risk Management, I am also responsible for Employee Health, Infection Control and Patient Concerns. I coordinate committee meetings, and am a participant in many other meetings. I represent our campus in revising and writing policies and procedures. I supervise one staff member. I enjoy setting goals and working towards them, and am satisfied when goals are reached and patients' concerns are resolved. On Sundays, I work as a charge nurse in a nursing home. I enjoy the interaction with the residents and staff members.

How many hours do you work in an average week?

What kind of health care setting do you work in?
In my full time job, I work in a school of medicine that is associated with a university system. My Sunday job is in a nursing home.

What do you see as strengths needed for your career?
The strengths needed for a career such as mine, include someone who pays attention to detail, is organized, is able to work as a team member, is able to lead when necessary, is willing to learn new things, is a good communicator, is an effective listener, is effective in handling confrontational people, and is flexible because things often change within the course of a day. Also, having a good sound nursing background and knowledge of the legal system are requirements for this job.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is as with anything I do --- to know that I did the best that I could do and that I made a difference --- whether within the lives of others, or within the systems that I work.

What advice would you give to those who are interested in your career?
First, I would say that I could never have gotten here without my education and my work experience. As a nurse, I have done so many things. I have worked in the follwoing areas: orthopedics, neurology, home care, case management, public health, long term care, and as a nursing supervisor. I have worked with many different populations and have been a home health nurse with the Pueblo Indians and later the Southern Ute Indians. Prior to becoming a nurse I worked as a registrar in conintuing legal education for attorneys, bankers, physicians and accountants. All have made me who I am today. But the most important thing is to have a sincere interest in humankind and to possess the ability to be empathetic. With a sincere heart, a person can accomplish great things in the eyes of those they serve.

If you could start over, would you still make the same decision to pursue education?
Most definitely, YES! But, I would have not waited so long to do it. I would have done it sooner.

Do you plan to pursue opportunities for advancement in your career field?
I'm sure I will continue my education as I enjoy learning. However, right now, I am a single-parent and responsible for raising a wonderful, energetic 11 y.o. daughter!

View Other Professionals in this Field
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