Compassionate Care with Pediatric NP Student Anana Upton

As a Peabody College of education student, Anana Upton, BS’21, decided to continue her Vanderbilt education immediately so she could move forward with her dream of being a pediatric nurse practitioner. Vanderbilt University has followed her from her senior semester to her last semester as a VUSN student. Follow these links to trace the paths this inspirational student has taken to accomplish her dream.

Class of 2021: Social justice activist strives to make change through health care

By Amy Wolf
Vanderbilt University Senior Editor & Writer

A family legacy of fighting for civil rights fuels Chicago native Anana Upton, whose mission is creating positive change in underserved communities. Read this April 2021 story and watch the video here >>

Compassionate care drives alumna Anana Upton to pursue pediatric nursing career

By Amy Wolf
Vanderbilt University Senior Editor & Writer

Growing up, Anana Upton, BS’21, spent endless hours in hospitals as her younger brother underwent care. That experience spurred a passionate drive in her to elevate the quality of health care available to underserved communities while also educating them about their medical choices and affording them the dignity they deserve. Read the full November 2022 story here >>

Q& A with Pediatric NP Student Anana Upton

Collected by Tatum Lyles Flick
VUSN Communications Specialist

  • Q: When you returned to the Chicago community with advanced nursing skills, did you feel more prepared to make a difference on a local level?
  • person smiling in pink shirt, leaning on railing

    Anana Upton

    A: I absolutely feel that being back in Chicago–my hometown in which I was born and raised–absolutely gives me a leg up, in that I am able to understand the nuances of the populations with which I work. In addition to being in school, I am also a caregiver for my father, and being back home with him has taught me so much about how families are so important in coordinating holistic care for patients with complex situations. Additionally, I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, an area which is predominantly made up of underrepresented populations with a significant lack of resources compared to other areas of the city. Therefore, I have found that being back home and practicing from a place that I am familiar with allows me to be better in-tune with the social determinants of health that may contribute to a patient’s overall outcomes, and how we can address those from unique perspectives. And not to mention, it’s always fun to mention that I was a camp counselor at some of the popular museums here in Chicago during high school, the kids I see absolutely love to talk about that!

  • Q: How has Vanderbilt School of Nursing prepared you for current issues in health care?
  • A: I think that health care in this country is an uphill battle a lot of the time, especially in today’s climate where politics have begun to influence how and when medical providers can provide evidence-based care to their patients. Therefore, it is just so important to stay abreast of what we–as future medical providers–can do to impact these spheres of influence. At VUSN, we learned how to write powerful and effective correspondence to congress and legislators regarding decisions made on a local and federal level, and I believe that advocacy, on a level even so seemingly small as that, is an important stepping stone along the way to larger, systemic change. Unless we speak, and speak loudly, we will never be heard.
  • Q: How have your grandparents reacted to your work in health care and how it continues their legacy?
  • A: My grandparents are immeasurably proud of the route that I have gone in carrying on their legacy. My grandfather calls me often to encourage me along the way with jokes and laughter, and for me, that alone is the best motivation that empowers me to power through a program as rigorous as this and unceasingly continue to work toward my goals.
  • Q: Was there any key experience in your life, as you watched your brother traverse the health care system, that made you think, “I should be a nurse!”?
  • A: As a child, there are many memories that you hardly remember. But for me, there is one that has always stuck with me. When my little brother was in the hospital after having a very complex surgery in which he had complete reconstruction of his feet, my family life was hectic. My parents slept in shifts at the hospital, my little brother looked so small and fragile in his big hospital bed, and I remember being so confused as to what was happening, but there was one nurse who always sat with me at the hospital, who took time out of her busy schedule to set me up with a movie or Play-Doh, after she made sure that my little brother was all set. I will always remember the impact that she had on me at a time where things felt so overwhelming and big, and how she was able to soothe away the fear in a way that felt nothing short of magic. That was when I knew that my calling was to do what she does, that I wanted to be a part of creating that magic for other children and their families as well.
  • Q: Is your dream still to open a holistic health clinic for underserved communities, and how has that dream changed over your time at VUSN?
  • A: Opening a holistic health clinic within the underserved community in which I grew up on the south side of Chicago is certainly still my ultimate dream and goal! I want to get more experience first, become solid and confident in my practice over a good few years, and then I plan on working toward making that dream a reality! In the meantime, as a federal Nurse Corps scholar, I will be working within Federally Qualified Health Centers and/or within clinics that are considered underserved by federal qualifications. There, I hope to strengthen my ties within the community, learn more about how to meet my patients where they are, and provide care that is tailored to their needs and resources. When I do begin the process of bringing that dream into fruition, I will have a firm foundation so I am not just injecting myself into a community without understanding them, but instead able to work collaboratively and implement practices that will truly make a lasting, sustainable difference.
  • Q: Why did you choose pediatrics?
  • A:Choosing pediatrics has always been a no-brainer for me. Even when I was a child and didn’t quite understand social standards, my mom would tell me that I would always drop everything, run up to people’s babies and try to hug and love on them no matter where I was. My family also used to joke and say that I had “baby radar,” and that I always had a keen eye for detecting any child within my vicinity! Children are just so dynamic and it is an honor to be able to play such an integral part of their development, assisting along the way in forming them into the wonderful, courageous adults that they will certainly grow into in the future. I believe that adults in many ways are big kids and I glean such joy from going into the clinic every day and finding new ways to make the doctor’s office just a little bit more fun and positively memorable for all of our little ones! My babies never fail in keeping me feeling excited to go into the clinic every day!
  • Q: How has your time traveling and working in underserved communities across the world affected how you see health care in the US and how you feel you can affect it?
  • A: My experience traveling and working with underserved populations and communities has only broadened my mind and emboldened my passion for empathy and access for all. It is so easy to get stuck in the bubble of the United States, and underestimate the privileges that we inherently have in living in a country in which we don’t have to worry about access to clean water or other basic necessities that are so easily taken for granted. Although we still have a lot to do within the United States, it’s also important to work collaboratively with our brothers and sisters around the world, to exchange help and resources, to understand their health care systems and how we can help each other do better. I have also learned so much through my community health class at VUSN, in which my group worked collaboratively with the Guyana Public Hospital’s emergency department to instill a quality improvement project focusing on instilling mindfulness curriculums into nurse residency programs. We found that the nurses in this hospital often had up to fifteen patients within a single 12 hour shift, which are staff ratios that are completely unheard of in the United States, and can quickly lead to burnout and decreased morale. Through developing these mindfulness curriculums – mindfulness being a concept which was completely new to Guyana as a country itself – we found that we were able to empower these nurses to feel much more in control of their emotions and moods. We not only won a VUSN award for best community health project, but we also learned that mindfulness was something that we also needed to instill more of within the VUSN community as well. Therefore, through this experience I was further convinced of the fact that reaching out to help others beyond our backyard can often lead to identifying gaps within our own practice and life, creating a mutually meaningful and beneficial experience for all.
  • Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
  • A: Number one is just to believe in yourself. I know that’s easier said than done, but you know you are meant to be-and don’t compare yourself to others. I think that’s also easier said than done. My other big advice is don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think that is super important. I can’t say how many times I’ve had anxiety over certain things and tried to figure it out alone. Once I started asking people for help, especially at Vanderbilt, that’s when doors really started opening for me. People want you to succeed and will help you succeed if you search for it and just put in that effort.

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