Tasha Humphreys (PMHNP 2021)

The Education Cycle

"As the first person in my immediate family to earn a college degree, I broke a long-standing generational cycle since none of us had an education beyond high school. I always say, if you want to hear the universe laugh, tell everyone about your plans."

Tasha Humphreys grew up in the southern states as her family followed changing employment opportunities, many of them gravitating from trade work that disappeared after plant closings to take operational jobs at Disney World. Forced to quit high school at age fourteen, Tasha longed to complete the elusive diploma but, due to personal circumstances, several attempts to earn a GED were unsuccessful and she spent years with no stable home base and limited work opportunities.

"Although I wanted to receive an education, there was no role model and no opportunity for me to learn about even the most basic things. As silly as this sounds, when my Vermont-native husband showed me photos of covered bridges in winter, I thought the photos were fake!"

Humphreys moved north with her husband, following the employment trail to Vermont and Maine, where the tide of life began to turn in her favor. An adult education program opened the door to achieving her dream of earning a GED and two teachers recognized her untapped potential. Making the case that higher education would provide improved work stability, they encouraged Tasha to apply for a grant to pay for her certification training as a Nurse’s Assistant. Excited by a new world of possibilities, she fell in love with the clinical experience. Applying action to encouragement, one of the teachers accompanied Tasha to the New England College Fair where she completed an application for enrollment.

Five years later, in a total reversal of family history, Tasha Humphreys received her BSN as a Registered Nurse, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2009 from Norwich University.  After exploring several nursing career options, Tasha found her passion on a Med-Surg unit at  Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital. Expecting to work there long-term, she enrolled in the Family Nurse Practitioner program at UNH and graduated in 2013.

"To improve my career and support my family, I had to keep going. As a soccer mom, my kids played on the field while I sat on the grass studying my books. Each exam I passed, each course I completed was a huge milestone toward building my confidence. My children learned a lot about resilience and grit during those years, traits that helped them build productive lives. Some of them are contributing to our new generational path by working on higher education degrees."

As an FNP, Tasha accepted a position in pain management, believing that freedom from chronic pain offered patients a better life. Over time, however, she realized that pain prescriptions often left patients vulnerable to addiction and in desperate need of access to a different type of treatment. Humphreys thinks that medical professionals who are licensed to write prescriptions should also be required to understand their potential risks and long-term ramifications. She believes that nursing and medical students would greatly benefit from spending time with patients struggling to overcome opioid addiction.

Acting on this epiphany, Tasha accepted a position with an opioid treatment center (OTP) that used an available approach geared specifically for addiction. Despite her love of the work, she realized that a lack of sufficient coping mechanisms for underlying mental health issues was often the missing link inpatient recovery. Identifying the need for a deeper technique, Humphreys returned to school once again, graduating in 2021 from the UNH Online Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program.

"The PMHNP program does a great job at fostering communication pathways and I am connected to colleagues across the country. We learned to recognize the impact of trauma on the human psyche, a concept that resonated deep within me as I worked through the acceptance of my own early trauma. Sharing our field experiences shifted individual perspectives which inspired some of my colleagues to refine their own treatment plans in current practice. This program makes its mark on the world by further educating nurse practitioners and our world is the better for it. As a nurse practitioner, I am right where I need to be."

Knowing that pain comes in many forms – physical, psychological, emotional – Tasha wished to address not just her patients’ addiction but also their underlying mental health conditions. With a PMHNP certification in hand, Humphreys joined a residential treatment center in New Hampshire that specializes in treating co-occurring mental health disorders while simultaneously treating substance use disorders, an approach often referred to as Dual Diagnosis. Drawing from a full range of mental health support, she notes the rewards as families reunite and patients return to productive lives on their journey to wellness.

To reverse the generational cycle, Tasha accompanied her mother to a local community college to complete an application for admission. With a bachelor’s degree now under her belt, her mother has pushed on to enroll in a master’s program. The glimmer of hope has become an achievable reality.

Or, as Tasha likes to say, if you want to hear the universe laugh, tell everyone about your plans.

                                                                                                   Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet