“Momma Bear” Cooper Nurse & Camden Native Keeps The Faith

Today, we feature Michelle Hackett, a student in Rowan Global’s master of science: nurse practitioner program. Here, she shares her story about her time at Cooper Hospital in Camden, NJ and offers insight on the reality of being a nurse.

Michelle sits on a bench outside Cooper Hospital.

I stayed in trauma med surg at Cooper Hospital in Camden for nine years. Loved it. I got through to a lot of these little young fellas out here who wanted to fight and gangbang and shoot. I’m a momma bear kind. I’m really not that afraid, because I grew up here in the city. So I’m not, “Oh, they’re going to shoot me! They’re going to come back and kill me!” and I’ve been threatened and all, but I’m not concerned. In the end, they know that I care about people. In the end, they are human.

My boys here in the city, sometimes when I’m off from work we run into each other and they’re, “Hey, Miss Michelle!” and I say, “Hey!”… but never speak of where we know each other. They are very protective. They turned around from being argumentative and threatening to embracing me like a family member. 

Some of them are repeat offenders. I had one kid who was on drugs, and he was a male prostitute who used to rob his clients. He would come in frequently. We met him when he was really young. I used to always tell this kid, “One of these days you’re not going to make it up here to the floor. You really need to stop.” He’d say, “Oh, Miss Michelle, I know what I’m doing. I’ve got this.” And, lo and behold, he came through trauma admitting one day. He was shot multiple times for robbing one of his guys … and he was killed by him. I thought, “Dammit, I told you this would happen.” 

So, all the outcomes aren’t good. I have to keep it all in perspective. My mom died when I was 13, so I’ve been on my own since I was 15. Even though I have a very large family, the social constructs of living in Camden are different — some things you hear about Camden are true, and some things are not. But I try to keep things very practical and try not to overthink things. Death is a part of life. I do cry, I do grieve my patients. There are people I will never, ever forget. But I just try to keep it in perspective and know that I did the best that I could for them while they were here. 

Michelle stands outside Cooper Hospital.

It can be traumatic if you are faint hearted as a nurse, because you’re seeing these broken bodies, you’re seeing these bodies that are mutilated. You’re seeing people die. It is not something that I shy away from, because I am a spiritual person and I do believe that there is a God and that there is something beyond this. My faith teaches me that this isn’t something to be afraid of. That’s what I give to my families, too, so I can inspire them through my faith to help them through the healing or grieving process. 

I love what I do, but I decided to get the master’s because I was working nights and crazy hours and I wanted to enjoy my kids, who I had late in life.  I knew I wanted to do a NP [nurse practitioner] program because I want to teach. I know there’s not a lot of money in teaching, but that’s my passion and that’s my heart’s desire. Earning the NP serves a dual purpose for me: one, I can teach; and two, I’m going to be cutting edge and still be abreast of what’s going on in practice, so I can share that with my students. 

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