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One of the advantages of studying at a large university like Northeastern is the opportunity to venture beyond your field of expertise and develop the tools you need to become an innovator in your profession.
For Rachel Abarbanel, NP’19, seizing that opportunity meant earning a graduate certificate in experience design from Northeastern’s College of Arts, Media, and Design, while working on her psychiatric nurse practitioner degree at Bouvé.
Friends and colleagues advised against it, saying, “Concentrate on your doctorate. You already have a lot on your plate.”
But Abarbanel wanted to learn more. While working as a psychiatric nurse, she had seen the enormous need to improve the patient experience. As a student, she yearned to engage her creative side as well as her passion for healthcare.
“My goal is to eventually open my own clinic as a nurse practitioner,” she said. “I want it to be a diverse wellness center, offering psychiatric services, but also counseling for everything from nutrition to finance.”
Abarbanel believes that by earning an additional certificate, students can make themselves more marketable and position themselves to be leaders in their field. In her case, the goal is to become an innovator by creating a seamless patient experience.
“Healthcare is a business, and like any business, we need to focus on efficiency and customer satisfaction,” she said.
Since graduating as valedictorian of the Regis College RN program in 2014, Abarbanel has been working as a psychiatric nurse, most recently at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain.
She plans to move to an outpatient setting after graduation in May. Her ultimate goal is to combine her clinical skills and design experience to create a comfortable environment where patients that will help people from having to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
In her design classes, her project focused on the most effective way to deliver group psychotherapy online.
“The beauty of telemedicine is that people often feel less ashamed to talk on the phone,” said Abarbanel. They’re more eager to share openly than they might be when they are with people face-to-face.”
She said her biggest challenge was that most of the other students in her design classes were studying architecture and other quantitative fields, and therefore were already well-versed in the technical tools used in experience design.
But this cross-fertilization of disciplines provided enormous advantages as well.
“My peers worked with me on the technical elements of my project,” she said. “They were really eager to help.”
The same was true of skills she brought to the class as a nurse.
“Being a nurse, I have an eye for things that are a little bit off,” she said. “I have been trained to think about how things can be done better. Designers have a similar eye, but in a different field. We’re not all that different.”