Many nurses will say they always knew they wanted to be a nurse, but this wasn’t true for Fortis instructor Priscilla Valenti. As a teen during the 1970s, she was interested in “doing good” through social justice and social work. However, her primary focus at the time was skiing.
“I was a varsity athlete at the University of Colorado,” she says. “I competed in downhill skiing at the Winter Olympics in 1972 in Sapporo, Japan and in 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria. My focus was on training, competing and fitting school in with the optimism of the times—to make a difference.”
After graduating from UC Boulder in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in individual and family development, Priscilla completed a master’s degree in counseling. From there she began her work as a protective care worker in charge of a new Sexual Abuse Unit in the State of Ohio.
“I was immediately immersed in training in an area that was very new and very real,” she says. “I realized from my first day that if I was going to make a significant difference in this world, I had to apply myself to learning all I could about sexual abuse and the impact to individuals, families and the community at large.”
Priscilla then had an epiphany—the first of many. In order to make a difference in this role, she needed knowledge about the nature of the problem, including its legal definitions, incidence and prevalence, and signs and symptoms.
“I had three major roles to play,” she says. “Identifying and reporting child abuse to appropriate authorities mandated to intervene; investigating and assessing children and families involved in child abuse; and providing real interventions for families to make a difference for both case management and treatment, to physically and sexually abused children. I committed myself to this task literally body and soul.”
Priscilla supervised a team with two social workers, a legal aide, and a nurse. “I began to see that the nurse on our team had the skills and training and the ability to merge her knowledge to be an incredibly effective member of our team,” says Priscilla. “She became my mentor and my role model for compassion, caring, and making a difference in real ways. I realized that to be most effective in doing good in this world, I needed that nursing knowledge base.”
Priscilla went back to school and became a nurse. She worked at the Kent State University Student Health Center in 1985. She retired as a practicing nurse in 2002 and started looking for her next chapter.
“I looked at my options and decided I would like to try coding and billing which was an up and coming career at the time,” she says. “I enrolled and completed the program at Bohecker’s College (Fortis College Ravenna) in 2003.”
“My career counselor at the time was Sharon Keiper (our current Registrar),” she says. “Sharon arranged for me to do an interview at National Institute of Technology in Cuyahoga Falls (now Fortis College) as a Medical Assisting (MA) faculty member. I had done many years of orienting and supervising medical assistants and pre-cepting nursing students in community health clinical rotations. I accepted the position and started an entirely new career. I quickly realized that we made a real difference in our students’ lives.”
Priscilla says being a student and an educator has been life changing. “There is a tangible satisfaction in helping others achieve goals, whether it be in training to be an MA, a nursing student, or in watching our graduates go on to become nurse educators,” she says. “Having an influence on patients, students, and the community is the greatest reward in nursing. The ability to establish relationships based on trust that lets me guide my students through the journey to becoming a nurse is a true blessing and is the most rewarding work I have ever done.”
Priscilla’s story is inspiring and is proof that nurses can make a difference in the world in so many ways. If you want to follow her lead, learn more about the nursing programs at Fortis Colleges & Institutes, St. Paul’s School of Nursing and Denver College of Nursing, please click here.