"By approaching each day with humility and gratitude, I celebrate the privilege of being a nurse and caregiver. I strive to bring my best to the daily work of taking care of patients and lifting up my colleagues."
As a public radio journalist, Sylvia Perry (DNP 2022) visited several local health centers during a trip to Africa. Witnessing a group of efficient nurses run a tightly organized clinic in Zimbabwe triggered an epiphany that ignited her pivotal shift to a career in nursing. With a BA in History from Yale University in hand, Perry later earned an MS in Health and Social Behavior from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and accepted a marketing position with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. But her newly chosen career focus propelled Sylvia to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing from MGH Institute of Health Professions, graduating in 2002.
Perry’s first employment as a registered nurse was in Medical Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, culminating in a capstone project centered on the importance of providing spiritual care for hospice cancer patients. She has served as Nursing Director at Massachusetts General Hospital and as a nurse practitioner with Mount Auburn Hospital and Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Perry has been with Massachusetts General Hospital for some years as a nurse practitioner, leading up to her current role in surgical oncology with the Avon Breast Center.
In 2022, Perry completed the UNH Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, grateful for the schedule flexibility of online asynchronous classes that allowed her to work full-time while earning a higher degree. Sylvia’s favorite course activities were the group projects that provided a platform for collaboration with a cohort spanning a multi-dimensional range of nursing backgrounds across the country.
The UNH DNP program challenged Sylvia to identify her core values. Acknowledging the continuity and leadership that Advanced Practice Nurses bring to interdisciplinary patient care teams, Perry sees a clear benefit when these providers are fully present and “well”, not only for the individual patient but throughout the healthcare system. The topic of her quality improvement project addresses the ongoing problem of workplace burnout: Assessment of Advanced Practice Provider (APP) Wellness and Well-Being. Based on the principle that burnout can result when self-care is not a priority, her project laid the foundation for developing practical ways to encourage wellness among providers. This deep dive motivated her to certify as a Health and Wellbeing Coach and to take the lead in creating the MGH Wellness Committee with the mission of fostering a supportive culture to promote a healthy balance between work and home life among its APP providers.
"Cultivating our own well-being makes us stronger role models, advocates and educators for colleagues, communities and patients. My DNP journey afforded me the time and space to explore these issues and I have since launched a grassroots network of APP innovators and champions to advocate for the resources needed to design local and impactful interventions within their practice area. I credit the discipline and discernment of the online DNP program at UNH for opening up new avenues that inspired my creativity and helped me build a platform for personal and professional growth."
Sylvia’s passion for serving her patients at a deep level was the inspiration for a poem she wrote at the height of the pandemic. Working long shifts at a regional COVID hotspot, Perry countered the pandemic-related emotional and physical barriers by mindfully conveying calm and reassurance through her eyes. She recalls this global emergency as a watershed moment for nurses to build connection of trust and an opportunity to witness first-hand the “beautiful humanity of patient care”.
Mindful of her own self-care, Perry turns to nature as a spiritual wellspring to keep her body and mind fit. This process of self-renewal mirrors Sylvia’s nursing style as she nurtures a circle of trust with her patients.
Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet