The south end of the UVA Lawn at night
Lifetime Learning

Following Your Own Journey to Personal Growth

During May, Lifetime Learning is featuring articles about graduation at the University of Virginia. Thoughts of commencement bring stories of new beginnings, such as  “Following Your Own Journey to Personal Growth” by Patricia Cady. Cady is a nurse in the Newborn ICU at UVA Children’s Hospital who is graduating this month with her BSN degree, and her inspirational story is a celebration of those who nurture with compassion and devotion.



It was my move to Charlottesville, thirteen years ago, that instilled in me the concept of lifelong learning. Becoming a member of the Jefferson community, and working as a nurse at UVA Medical Center, changed my outlook on the importance of continuing to grow as an individual, both professionally and personally. In 2014, at the age of 54 and with eighteen years of nursing experience behind me, I decided to return to school and obtain my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree through the UVA RN-BSN program.

My true passion in nursing has always been with the babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The first nine years of my career I worked in a NICU in northern Virginia. Upon moving to Charlottesville, I found myself, for various reasons, accepting a completely different position here at UVA. For eleven years I worked in the adult field of medicine, continuing to grow my skills as a nurse, which served me well as both my parents and my in-laws developed illnesses I was able to support them through. But, as time went on, there was something missing for me. I was no longer working in the hospital setting, and I missed the face-to-face collaboration of working with multidisciplinary teams.

After completing five semesters of prerequisites and entering the RN-BSN program in the Fall of 2016, I was in my first semester of the program as I listened to my classmates speak of their bedside experiences, which gave me the spark to return to what I loved the most–working in the NICU. In the Spring of 2017, just a few months into my return to the NICU, I was reminded of the frustration of attempting to keep neonates from yanking on the tube which delivers oxygen to their lungs, known as an endotracheal tube (ETT). I would lie awake in bed trying to imagine a medical device which would keep babies’ hands away from their mouths and noses. By that summer I had developed a design for a vest, although it only existed in my imagination.

The Fall of 2017 brought about a class, Nursing Trends and Issues, which required us to choose a specific patient issue corresponding to our place of work. We then researched the evidence-based practice to bring about change to our nursing standardized workflow. It only seemed natural for me to choose unplanned extubations (UE), known as the accidental removal of an ETT. It was my research that inspired me to think of the possibility of making a change to the UE rates in America. My research revealed that these rates have remained the same in America, as compared to 30 years ago. This was unacceptable to me, especially considering that UEs can cause bleeding in the brain, leading to cerebral palsy; cause chronic lung disease, leading to tracheostomies; and cause long-term trauma to the trachea.

This research was exactly what I needed to give me the encouragement to create a prototype of my vest. After a trip to the fabric store, I garnered the nerve to show my prototype to my professor, a former pediatric intensive care nurse. She pondered the design, looked up at me and said, “you need to show this to someone.” From there, it led to a relationship with a licensing agent at UVA Licensing and Venture Group, writing a proposal for an RFA with the Ivy Biomedical Innovation Fund and receiving a $14,000 grant to create my vest. Since then, a provisional patent has been filed, as a possible industry partner has shown interest in participating in the creation of this medical device.

This experience has been surreal and had it not been for the belief in lifelong learning, I would never have experienced this incredible journey. It brings to mind that Colonel Sanders was 65 years old when he began his business selling fried chicken. He was proof that age should never be a factor when passion and determination are the foundation for a vision. Like Mr. Sanders, believe in yourself and never end the journey of personal growth.


Thoughts on “Following Your Own Journey to Personal Growth

    Well written and a pleasure to read. There is no greater pleasure in realizing there is more to yourself today than there was yesterday. Also, a greater appreciation and respect for those who shared their life’s work so you could learn from them.


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