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Heart for the Underserved

Heather L. Duncan, APN FNP-BC

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing

Jaimie Rickards

Bachelor of science with a major in nursing, class of 2011
Student in the master of science in nursing, family nurse practitioner program, graduating in 2016
Community Health Nurse, Heartland Health Centers

The Partnership

Jaimie met Prof. Duncan as an undergraduate student, and they remained close throughout her undergraduate nursing program. they traveled to Zambia together to serve children in need of health care, and Jaimie is now following Prof. Duncan's footsteps into practice caring for underserved populations. Here's a glimpse of their ongoing relationship and what it has meant to each of them.

Jaimie: I first met Heather in one of my undergrad courses, before I was officially in the nursing program. Then, in 2009, I was in her Community Health class, and was also one of the student leaders on the Zambia Global Partnerships trip. Since this trip was the first to utilize the nursing students, we attended many meetings together and got to know each other really well.

The thing that stands out the most about Heather is that she is very approachable, and really has a heart for the underserved population. I felt like I had a lot more in common with her because of our interest in Zambia, homelessness, and community health.

Heather: My specialty is poverty medicine. I practice as a nurse practitioner with health care for the homeless in Chicago. I am passionate about students learning that every person is a child of God and worthy of respect no matter what their socioeconomic situation.

Jaimie was a student in my Survey of Nursing class. She stood out as a very engaged enthusiastic student amongst the masses. She was the student leader on my first Global Partnership trip to Zambia, which is when I began to see what an amazing person and nurse she would become.

Jaimie: This teaching/mentoring relationship is unique because we were able to travel to Zambia together, where you are vulnerable and honest with everyone on the trip. I think it is very difficult to attain this type of a relationship, and our Zambia experience really allowed us to connect. She not only has the same passions and interests as I do, but is a Christian. My experiences to Zambia really transformed my faith, and she was there to help me with anything I was struggling with. How many professors can say that they have seen their students get baptized?

Now, Heather knows me very well, and knows that I can sometimes be indecisive. I was pursuing a degree at UIC in public health, and Heather was supporting me every step of the way. When I realized I would lose patient interaction and the fun assessment part, I called Heather for some advice. She always made the time to hear my goals, and knew that I truly valued her advice. She has helped me realize that the FNP track is the right place for me. There are not too many nurses who work in the community health setting, and given her experience, she is able to encourage me every step of the way.

Heather: After Zambia, Jaimie became very vested in providing health care to the underserved. We meet quite often, have discussed faith, poverty, and life. Jaimie is now working with the underserved in Chicago at one of my former employers. We joke that Jaimie is me 25 years ago! It has been such an honor to be part of her journey.

Jaimie: My work at Heartland Health Centers has really been a dream come true. I applied here right out of undergrad, even with no experience. I've always known I wanted to do community health nursing, and when I finally was able to get in the door, I was ecstatic! I am able to bring what I learn at work to class and vice versa. I am incorporating public health knowledge, triaging skills, education and prevention, pediatric and OB care, and leadership and management all in one job.

My future plans are to graduate the FNP program, complete an optional one-year residency program out of state, practice for a year or so, and then practice as a family nurse practitioner in another country. Without North Park University, I never would have gone to Zambia, which was the begining of my love for traveling and other cultures. I also don't know if I would have become a Christian if I didn't have the support of the North Park staff and all the wonderful friends I have made along the way.

Next Steps

Read more from the Winter 2014 North Parker.

Nursing professor and student.