VCU nurse practitioner grad earns Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship to finish her final clinical rotation in India

Carrie Schlabach at her graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University with her brother Nate (left), father David, and mother Helen. Schlabach, a 2012 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University's nursing program, will be a licensed family nurse practitioner after passing her boards. She served her final clinical rotation in India with the help of a Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship. (Courtesy photos)

Carrie Schlabach is the first family nurse practitioner graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Nursing to be sponsored by the Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship’s Student Elective Term. With the help of this scholarship, the 2012 alumnus of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) spent her final clinical rotation in India working at the United States Consulate in Mumbai providing care for diplomats and local residents.

In Mumbai, Schlabach found a unlikely EMU connection: her preceptor at the consulate’s clinic was alumnus Lisa Gallagher Landes, who earned her degree in social work in 1985 and a second degree in nursing in 1989. Landes also taught in the EMU nursing department from 2001-2008 before joining the Department of State.

Schlabach graduated with a family practitioner degree from VCU in May. She is one among many EMU nursing program alumni who earned graduate degrees this spring (an incomplete list is below; to share your news, click here).

Public health service in a developing country

Schlabach was one of four graduate students in healthcare professional study programs to be awarded a Student Elective Term (SET) grant. The grant provides travel and living subsidies to work in a cross-cultural mission setting in a developing country. Other awardees this year worked in El Salvador, Zambia and Ecuador.

Due to complicated paperwork and VCU’s program restrictions, Schlabach recognized there was a high chance that the opportunity would fall through.

“Luckily, I had really supportive people around me and it worked out,” Schlabach said.

Work experience drives return to graduate school

Going to graduate school was a long-term goal she set as an undergraduate. But that goal was also solidified by a desire to become more knowledgeable and be better able to help her patients.

In between EMU and VCU, she worked for two years at Rockingham Memorial Hospital on the medical oncology floor. She was certified to administer chemotherapeutic drugs which added another layer of stress to an already difficult job.

“There were a lot of times where we would see the progression of the disease and  patients would pass away,” Schlabach said. “It was really emotionally hard.”

Once she is licensed as a nurse practitioner, Schlabach will be able to both diagnose and treat patients, similar to a physician’s assistant.

“I look forward to greater autonomy,” Schlabach said. “It’s a curse and a blessing in a way. Right now, it’s a scary thought, all that freedom. But ultimately, that’s what I was looking for, more autonomy in my role.”

Carrie elephant

In addition to working at the United States Consulate in Mumbai at their health clinic, Carrie Schlabach took some time to visit, and volunteer, in an elephant sanctuary.

Schlabach describes her education at EMU as “a strong base.” The small class sizes and close relationships with professors provided a supportive environment that she says is essential given the difficulty of the academic content and the emotional stressors of the profession. There was also a strong spiritual connection in the department’s “sacred covenant” model of nursing.

“At EMU, you had that comfort knowing you shared something so fundamentally significant,” Schlabach said, adding that the covenant formed a “cultural connection” between Mennonite and non-Mennonite faculty and students.

After taking her board examinations, Schlabach says she would be happy working in any field from primary care to urgent care. “I also did a dermatology rotation that I really enjoyed too, so you never know,” she said.

Aside from her professional experiences in India, she made time for some fun, too, visiting the Taj Mahal and an elephant sanctuary where she rode, bathed and painted elephants.

Congratulations to these recent nursing alumni

The EMU nursing department has learned of the following alumni who graduated this spring.  If you’ve recently earned a post-graduate degree, licensure or certification, please let us know by completing an alumni update form. We’ll be sure to let your nursing program professors know!

Other recent graduates include Corrie Stutzman Swarzentruber, doctor of nursing practice, University of Iowa; Natalie Romero, family nurse practictioner, University of South  Alabama; Rachel Clemmer Charles, family nurse practitioner, Penn State; Courtney Wilson, family nurse practitioner; Kara Keegan Cox, certified nurse midwife; Anastasia Suslachev, MS in nursing and certified nurse midwife, James Madison University; and Eugenie Setiawan, MS in nursing and acute care nurse practitioner, Duke University.

The following alumnae graduated from EMU with their MS in Nursing, with a concentration in leadership and management: Shantae Fisher , Michelle Shuey, Janine Richard, Marlisa Thomas, Heather Shirk, Krista Rogers, Dana Farra.

Published June 2016.