Clinicals, class, homework — this is the never-ending cycle of duties for a typical student at Baker University’s School of Nursing at Stormont-Vail HealthCare in Topeka. And as one of the top nursing schools in the state, the coursework never fails to challenge, either.

So when professor Kathryn Schartz suggested Katharine Atwood, ’15, dedicate hours of her valuable free time to condensing a 22-page nursing ethics research paper into seven pages to submit for publishing, Atwood’s first thought was, “She’s crazy.”

“I was so overwhelmed with school and volunteering already that I didn’t even know if I wanted to submit anything,” Atwood said. “Baker has a really good program, but it’s rigorous. You’ll feel like you’ve learned everything possible, but the next second you realize there’s so much left to learn.”

However, with Schartz’s support, Atwood got the article in shape for submission to the January-February 2015 issue of The Kansas Nurse and was notified of her selection months later. In the midst of her last semester in college, she even forgot about it. But four months later, she learned that her work was selected for the 2015 Non-Clinical Writing award from the Kansas State Nurses Association.

“A student winning this award is huge,” Schartz said. “It says that she definitely has the potential to go on to graduate school and to be a scholar as well as a practicing nurse.”

The paper, “Patient-Centered Medical Homes for Vulnerable Populations,” covered the topic of underserved populations and their access, or lack thereof, to community health care. The topic is one close to Atwood’s heart; three days a week she spent time at the Heartland Community Health Center in Lawrence, Kansas, interacting with the same at-risk health patients she was researching. It was for this personal and direct reason that Atwood decided her late-night efforts were worth it.

“I almost didn’t even submit it,” Atwood said. “But after a little pushing from Professor Schartz and really getting to see what these people were up against, I felt like I had to. I think the nursing population needs to be informed about this.”

Bernadette Fetteroff, dean of the Baker University School of Nursing, said that this award is a great honor. Schartz believes Atwood, who was also chosen to present at the Sigma Theta Tau nurses honor society conference in November, stands out as a scholar and is deserving of the accolades she has received.

But for Atwood, who is now employed by the same facility where she received her education, she believes much of the honor should be reflected back on the university.

“I think this speaks volumes about Baker, where the professors encourage us to think outside of the box,” Atwood said. “I think in a lot of nursing programs, the education is very textbook based, but at Baker we are encouraged to research outside what we thought was possible. I never thought I would do something like this, especially as an undergraduate. It speaks to the excellence of the program and how it teaches students what to strive for.”

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