Khushbu Patel recognizes a good thing when she’s got it
Written by Steve St. Angelo | Photo by Chris Hartlove
It wasn’t the greatest way to fall in love with health care. Back then, Khushbu Patel, now a student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Track, was just a teen with a very sick grandfather at Inova Fairfax, a hospital in Northern Virginia. A heart bypass and resulting complications kept him and his adoring granddaughter at the hospital for an extended stay. Grandfather would eventually be discharged and depart as good as new. Granddaughter would be changed forever—by the care she witnessed and the friendship of a nurse she bonded with during that time. In fact, she would never really leave.
“The hospital is sort of a weird second home of mine,” says Patel (daughter of and sister to physicians). She began volunteering at age 13, attended the University of Virginia, developed a crush on the idea of becoming a flight nurse (“the rock star thing” … it never panned out), attended Marymount University in Alexandria, VA, and then went to work as an RN … right back where she started, at Inova Fairfax.
“My grandfather was so proud when he heard I got a job there,” Patel says.
And the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing saw to it that she wouldn’t have to leave to earn her DNP. Patel credits Assistant Professor Tammy Slater for leadership, flexibility, and creativity in finding clinical sites in Washington, DC and Virginia, which allowed Patel to maintain her residence in Fairfax Station, VA and her standing at Inova Fairfax.
I just try to trust the process … and I’ve been surprised at every step.
“She looks at you and what your background is,” Patel says of Slater, “and then she pushes you out of your comfort zone.” For Patel, that meant time learning to act as a hospitalist, keying on “How can we get the patient home quickly and safely?” vs. focusing on a specific organ, illness, or type of nursing—the ultimate patient and health care advocate. And right now, she’s in the neuro intensive care unit, because Slater says so. It’s not easy to transition back and forth, but Patel has embraced the challenge and learned a lot about her own flexibility as well.
“I just try to trust the process and give each rotation a chance, and I’ve been surprised at every step,” she explains. “You’re so well-rounded when you come out of this program. You learn to handle so many scenarios.”
And back at Inova Fairfax, though she doesn’t fly off to the rescue in medical choppers, Patel has become something of a rock star anyway. She’s noticed that, as she moves toward a doctorate, colleagues and supervisors look at her in a new light. “I still don’t feel any different,” Patel says. But as she works to complete her DNP project—within her own hospital unit—co-workers notice her growth.
“My supervisor will ask, ‘What’s your DNP perspective on that?’ ”
Patel’s perspective: That’s pretty cool.