ACML Student Profile: Penelope Theodoropoulos
I firmly believe that through my nursing career I can make a difference in the health care field. It is my goal to showcase the impact nurses can have and empower the new generation of nurses to shape the health care field by creating fair policies and addressing health disparities.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
For as long as I can remember, I have known that I wanted to pursue a profession that positions me to help people and make an impact on their lives. I always strive to see potential in people, and I derive a great deal of joy and satisfaction from finding ways to help them become the best versions of themselves. As a high school student, I found myself drawn to the natural sciences and as I approached graduation, it became clear to me that nursing was my calling. As a profession, nursing combines my interests in biology, psychology, and the opportunity to connect with people in a meaningful way.
What prompted your decision to pursue a Masters in ACML, and why did you choose Columbia?
Coming from Nafpaktos, a small town in Greece, I never could have imagined applying to, let alone graduating from, Columbia University. About six years ago I decided to move from my country to New York City to follow my passion for nursing and took a position as a bedside nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian.
Early in my nursing career, I was fortunate to take on some leadership responsibilities. I quickly discovered that through a leadership role, I was poised to make a broader impact on the lives of my patients by empowering my colleagues to maximize their potential. This prompted me to look into graduate programs that could give me all the tools and resources to prepare me to be a successful leader. It was around this time that a colleague made me aware of Columbia Nursing’s Masters in ACML, and I decided to apply. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with such a talented and diverse group of nurses and learn from professors who nurtured our critical thinking and emotional intelligence.
What are you passionate about, and how has Columbia Nursing allowed you to follow that passion?
I firmly believe that through my nursing career I can make a difference in the health care field. It is my goal to showcase the impact nurses can have and empower the new generation of nurses to shape the health care field by creating fair policies and addressing health disparities. My passion for nursing and the ideas that came with it couldn’t be nurtured in my country six years ago, but I knew the United States would be the place to give me all the resources to follow this passion. At Columbia Nursing I felt empowered and inspired to make a difference in the health care system as a future leader. I learned to use evidence-based practice to make arguments, research and write health care policies, and perhaps most importantly, how to listen to the needs of individuals and identify social injustices around me with an open mind. All these tools as well as the impact of my professors, classmates, and colleagues at the hospital have helped provide a focus and clarity to guide my aspirations.
Do you have a favorite memory of your time at Columbia Nursing?
Our program started in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of our classes transitioned to online learning. I found that this shared experience bonded us. Being that we were all nurses, we could share our experiences from work and from home. We knew that there was mutual understanding and respect. Our weekly Zoom classes sometimes felt like a support group. We cried together, we laughed together, we virtually surprised our professors, and we saw each other through big life events together.
Another precious memory I have from Columbia, aside from the ACML program, has been the experience of being a pediatric clinical Instructor for the MDE students for the last year. I was able to pass my knowledge and clinical experience to so many amazing individuals but also got to learn from them and be inspired by them. It has been so wonderful to be both a student and an instructor at the same time at Columbia Nursing and help the new generation of nurses find their first steps in their career.
What are your next steps after graduation?
I am more than excited to see what the future holds for me and the rest of my career. What I know for sure is that this degree will not only open many doors for me but will also give me that extra confidence to explore opportunities I may not have considered before.
Since graduation, I have been using my role as a nurse educator as a platform to motivate nurses and advocate for them. The focus of my efforts has been promoting well-being, mental health, and resiliency amongst nurses in the wake of the pandemic. Recently, I had the honor of presenting about nurse retention and well-being at a global webinar hosted by the Nursing Now Challenge, a program working with health employers and universities around the world to create nursing leadership opportunities. More than 70 nurses joined from 23 different countries around the world. It was such an inspiration, and proved that when we all come together we have the power to accomplish amazing things.
I aspire to continue to collaborate with the global nursing community to promote nurse well-being, empowerment, and leadership development.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to encourage my colleagues, my students, and the nursing community to take leadership roles in health care and take every opportunity to expand their knowledge through programs such as the ACML at Columbia Nursing.
I would also like to thank my friends, my mentors, and family, especially my parents for always supporting me through every step and inspiring me to follow my dreams and aspirations in life.