September 2013

"Never Get Too Comfortable with a Patient's Routine"

Alumni Profile:
Michelle Kolb, ’05 ’09, CPNP

Michelle Kolb

Since 2009, Michelle Kolb has worked at the NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital caring for infants, children, and young adults who have received bone marrow transplants as part of their treatment for malignant cancer and other diseases. Kolb also serves as the nurse leader for her unit’s Central Line Infection Prevention Collaborative Group. She maintains a strong connection with Columbia Nursing, serving as a preceptor for both undergraduate and master's students, and as a member of the Columbia Nursing Alumni Association Board. Kolb will receive the Richard E. Witten award for Volunteer Leadership from Columbia University, which honors alumni who have inspired others to make a significant impact on behalf of a Columbia School or program.

Q: As an undergraduate at Queens College, you majored in Studio Art. What prompted you to go to nursing school and why did you choose pediatrics as your focus?

A: I held nurses in high esteem ever since I was a child watching them care for my mother when she went through breast cancer treatment. However, my original career plan was to become an art therapist. But when I saw the compassion of the nurses I worked with at my college job at a physician’s office, I was inspired to switch gears. I chose to work with children because I have always been impressed by their strength and resilience.

Q: The patients on your floor are primarily children who have been hospitalized for several months. From a nursing perspective, what are some of the special considerations required to care for this population?

For nurses, the hospital is our work place but it becomes home for our patients and their families. Their lives in the hospital revolve around our care, and we often serve as their support system during their most vulnerable moments. As a nurse, you need to work closely with families to develop their trust. It is also important to respect the families’ autonomy and allow them to contribute to the decision-making process.

Q: Your unit treats patients whose clinical status could change at any time. What are the most important skills and lessons that you try to impart on the Columbia Nursing students that you precept on your unit?

I stress that they should never get overly comfortable with a patient’s routine. Since our patients usually have long hospital stays, it is easy to assume that their routine will be the same each day. An astute nurse will identify any subtle clinical changes in their patients, and then pay prompt attention to the problem. And I tell students that it’s critically important to know when and who to ask for assistance.

Q: What inspired you to volunteer for Columbia Nursing’s Alumni Association?

My nursing career started the moment I walked into the Alumni Auditorium for ETP Visiting Day. I would not be where I am today without the incredible education and support I received from my instructors and mentors at Columbia Nursing. I am so grateful I had amazing role models and preceptors during all parts of my training. I am proud to be an alumnus, and volunteering is the best way for me to give back and show my appreciation. I enjoy participating in school events through the Alumni Association and appreciate the opportunities it gives me to mentor new students and advocate for new resources for the school.

Q:  What advice would you give your younger self before you began your career as a nurse practitioner?

Ask for advice from your mentors at every opportunity. The connections you make with professors and classmates will be invaluable throughout your entire career and this network will support you during the challenges you will face. Find a field that you love and are passionate about. And I would tell myself that learning continues long after formal education ends.