Danica Parkin ’08 is a family nurse practitioner at Mt. Spokane Pediatrics and teaches community health nursing to undergraduate nursing students at Washington State University. She is also a founding member of the Board of Directors of Salish School of Spokane, an urban native-language-immersion childcare center that is revitalizing two Plateau Salish Languages.
When and why did you decide to pursue nursing?
I decided to pursue nursing while I was part of the medical assisting program at Evergreen's campus clinic. I had become interested in midwifery but was exploring other health career options. I worked with several great providers at the campus clinic and in the community, including some amazing nurse practitioners, which helped inspire me to become a nurse practitioner too.
What do you like most about working in pediatrics?
I love the education piece! I like working with children but my focus is really on the family as a unit. I help children to be healthy and get the resources they need but I also help support parents in their very important job of raising humans. This might include education or discussion about breastfeeding, discipline, nutrition, or car seat safety. Regardless of the topic, I seek to empower patients and families to steward their own physical and mental health. Feeling like I contribute to healthier families and communities is what I like most about working in pediatrics.
How did your academic work at Evergreen help prepare you for the work you do now?
Evergreen helped prepare me for the work I do now by giving me a foundational education that I could build upon. I was able to follow more than one passion through the interdisciplinary courses, which gives me a broader perspective. In my sciences classes, I also developed a mastery mindset in regards to learning, which is pretty different from what is found in more conventional classroom models. I was taught to focus on my individual understanding of course content, rather than chasing a certain grade. That has definitely informed my nursing practice. I have the viewpoint that there is always something for me to learn to be a better nurse practitioner. Evergreen really helped solidify that outlook.
Why is your service as a founding board member of the Salish School important to you?
I am a descendant of the Sinixt Indian Band and my children and nieces attend Salish School of Spokane, so my volunteer work has a very personal connection. The sense of urgency surrounding our work also lends importance to my service. The Pacific Northwest is ranked internationally as one of the top five geographic areas with the most language loss. This means that our area is having languages die out or go extinct at an extraordinary rate. There are now less than 100 speakers of my language and less than a dozen live in the United States. The rest live in British Columbia. Every day we're racing the clock to reverse this trend and to create new fluent speakers. We're focusing on parents and their children because families speaking Salish daily is what is going to revitalize our language and our culture. My service at Salish School of Spokane has also been fueled by my time at Evergreen. I had my first experiences with event planning when I participated in Student Activities and I also worked in the development office as a work study student. I learned some basics about fundraising there that I am still using today.
What's your advice to current Evergreen students interested in nursing?
Explore! Evergreen students have so many more opportunities than at traditional universities. Write a contract or job shadow. Definitely volunteer or be in service to a cause because nursing is service. Spend time in the labs, get to know your faculty and Evergreen's great staff. Participate in campus activities and follow your other passions too. The best nurses are ones that have other passions and experiences that inform their world view. You're in the ideal place to make that happen.
Photo credit: Young Kwak.