From Patient to Nurse: Graduating Nursing Student Brooke Trigiani

 

Brooke Trigiani

Brooke Trigiani

By Jeanne Leong

Inspired by nurses who cared for her when she was a patient, Rutgers University‒Camden nursing student Brooke Trigiani is fulfilling a dream to take care of others.

As a child, Trigiani was unable to participate in activities with friends in ways that she wished she could because she was born with severely flat feet. She couldn’t finish a mile run for gym class, and wasn’t able to participate in most sports. Just walking on flat surfaces could cause crippling pain.

Often, she just endured the pain, saying to herself, “my feet are flat, plenty of people have it.”

She would push herself to do activities until the pain was unbearable. One day, when she was about 12 years old, she spent the day with a family friend walking on the boardwalk at the shore, but by the evening, the pain was too intense for her to walk any farther. “On the outside I looked completely functional, but my feet were incapable of providing me any support,” says Trigiani.

Determined to live an active life despite her health issues, she joined the cross-country team at Moorestown High School. “I was trying to convince myself the pain was in my head, and that my deformity wouldn’t interfere with my physical capabilities,” says Trigiani. “I was proven quite wrong.”

In 5K runs during team practices, she was unable to run, so she walked. Trigiani would find a secluded spot to hide out, where she would cry for about 10 minutes.

“For a very long time, this left me feeling inadequate and ashamed of myself. I felt like I couldn’t do the most basic things. I tried to convince myself it will go away,” says Trigiani.

By the end of her sophomore year in high school, she accepted the reality that her condition was very serious. Her doctors informed her that she had a deformity that required surgery to correct the alignment of her feet.

When she was 17 years old, she had the first of several surgeries that would give her the ability to participate in everyday activities without pain. In nearly three years, she had three surgeries, followed by long hospital stays to recover. Many nights, nurses remained by her bedside overnight to care for her.

“When I was alone and in pain, the nurses would come to comfort me,” says Trigiani, who will graduate with honors from the Rutgers School of Nursing‒Camden on May 22. “It inspired me, and made me want to help heal those in need.”

A 2014 graduate of Moorestown High School, Trigiani attended Rowan College at Burlington County before transferring to Rutgers‒Camden.

Trigiani’s mission to help others extended to serving at the Rutgers‒Camden Learning Center as a peer tutor to assist students in mastering nursing concepts.

Brooke Trigiani speaking at the dedication of the Nursing and Science Building in September 2017

Brooke Trigiani speaking at the dedication of the Nursing and Science Building in September  2017

As president of the Rutgers School of Nursing‒Camden chapter of the Student Nurses’ Association (SNA), she led the group’s revitalization by engaging students with new events and activities, including community service projects. Trigiani organized a group of student volunteers to work on health education programs at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The SNA collected food donations to stock the food pantry on campus, and organized volunteer events to help feed the hungry in Camden. Trigiani spearheaded the SNA’s effort to create a pin to present to graduates of the bachelor of science in nursing program.

Her leadership role on the campus SNA chapter led her to serve on the state SNA chapter, and attend the National Student Nurses Association convention in Salt Lake City. A resolution she presented at the convention, calling for increasing awareness of the benefits of electroconvulsive therapy for psychiatric treatment, passed unanimously.

“With this experience, I am very interested in becoming more politically active,” says Trigiani. “I plan on becoming more involved with my hometown’s council and seeing how I can work my way up as a nurse to advocate for patients. This is a newfound passion, and I am excited to see where it takes me.”

A resident of Moorestown, Trigiani worked part-time as a student geriatric associate at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s emergency department, assisting patients with training their bodies to be able to perform activities in everyday life and providing emotional support.

After graduation, she hopes to continue working at Penn Medicine as an emergency department nurse.

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