Kathryn Mathis discovered nursing when her daughter Lily contracted viral meningitis, which then developed into a serious brain injury. “I wanted to give back. The nurses inspired me… I don’t think I would have ended up here if Lily and I didn’t have that experience.”
With five children, Mathis learned during the BSN program to balance her family and her education. “My husband is incredibly supportive and excited for me,” said Mathis. Even with support, the balance can be difficult to strike. “I had to change the way we live. Taking off the little loads make a big difference – like dishes. There were some times when we used paper plates because I didn’t have the time to do the dishes.” With advocates in her home and at the College of Nursing encouraging her along the way, she was able to thrive educationally. Mathis specifically singles out Assistant Professor Tammy Spencer. “She is by far the best instructor I’ve ever met.” Spencer reinforced Mathis’ drive to complete her education with reassuring words of encouragement throughout the program.
After graduation, Mathis will be continuing the long process to medical foster care. For her family, it is important to support children like Lily – those who do not have homes but need medical attention at home. Ultimately, Mathis would like to continue to serve the pediatric population with terminal illnesses or severe physical disabilities.
Mathis’ words of wisdom to anyone studying medical professions is to not get caught up in the textbook. She emphasizes that many patients will not fit into boxes laid out in scientific literature. Having empathy is key. “Presume competence in people with disabilities. Expect the best out of people – they are intelligent.”