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Postdoc Research Fellow's Decision toward Nursing and her Ensuing Career

May 5, 2020

Tiffany Montgomery, PhD, became a nurse because she wanted to deliver babies. Here's her story.

Tiffany Montgomery, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow at the College of Nursing and Health ProfessionsMontgomery enrolled in the Aspirations in Medical Services program at her high school and set her sights on a career as a certified nurse-midwife. During the program's maternity nursing course, Montgomery realized she enjoyed teaching the material more than working in direct patient care. "It was also painfully obvious that there were no Black professors in my undergraduate nursing program. I thought this was a disservice to the Black students in the program and to the community at large, so I decided to become a nurse educator," Montgomery described.

While in the MSN in nursing education program, she developed a passion for research. This passion gave her the desire to pursue a PhD in nursing. "Although I work as a postdoctoral fellow, I still maintain clinical practice as a labor and delivery nurse," she explained. "My reasoning is simple: working with patients makes me a better educator and a better researcher," Montgomery added. In addition to the fulfillment she gets when caring for pregnant women, her research questions come from her practice experiences. Moreover, when teaching, she loves to share anecdotes and stories of encounters with patients. She doesn't have to draw on experiences from years past; she speaks openly about patient encounters experienced last week or last month.

Montgomery's hope is to continue to work clinically for the remainder of her career as a nurse researcher. In fact, she recently enrolled in a postmaster's Women's Health/Gender-Related Nurse Practitioner program. "I have wanted to be a WHNP for the past ten years. I am making this shift to advanced practice nursing because I realize the importance of health promotion and disease prevention, which is fairly difficult to address in a labor setting. I also realize the need for APRNs of color in urban settings."Tiffany Montgomery, PhD, wearing PPE at work

Montgomery noted that Philadelphia, in particular, is disproportionately affected by the low number of Black healthcare clinicians. More than 50 percent of this city's residents are Black, yet only a small proportion of the healthcare providers in the city are. She is doing her part to change that unfortunate statistic.

She stated that nursing is her passion and calling. "I could not imagine having a career in any other profession. Nursing has given me the opportunity to directly impact the lives of the patients I care for and the students I teach," she said. She has been able to mentor nursing students and practicing nurses who want to return to school. It's also afforded her the opportunity to participate in workgroups that make high-level recommendations related to health equity, travel the world to observe front line health workers in foreign countries and publish research that will impact public health practice and national health policy.

Nursing is the most trusted profession in the nation; it is one of few professions that allows her to work directly with patients, educate students and conduct research so fluidly. Montgomery encourages anyone who is interested in nursing to take the leap and believes that this current pandemic shouldn't stop anyone from following their purpose."Working during the COVID pandemic has caused me to reflect on the reasons I became a nurse and on the core ethics and values of nursing," Montgomery said.

Her experience of caring for pregnant women now has been bittersweet. She is helping women at one of the most important times in their lives. "I wanted to protect their rights to autonomy and to non-harmful, equitable care. Those things haven’t changed," she disclosed. Honored to provide support and reassurance for laboring women during an exceptionally vulnerable time, she is also saddened by the extreme measures taken to prevent further spread of the virus. Mothers are allowed only one visitor during their hospital admission and those who test positive are separated from their babies. Montgomery stated that this goes against everything they know to be helpful during the immediate postpartum period and laments how difficult a situation it is to be in.

Tiffany Montgomery, PhD, wearing PPE at work"In the wake of COVID, however, I am much more aware of the risks I sometimes take when caring for pregnant women and it is a sobering realization," she explained. "Nursing will take you further than you ever imagined you'd go, and it will give you experiences you could have only hoped for," Montgomery added. There are so many things you can do with a nursing license. "I have never regretted my decision to become a nurse. I have the same level of optimism for anyone else who comes along this journey—a virus won't stop that," she concluded.