By most objective measures - and by her own accounting - Caprie Bell has lived a blessed life. A magna cum laude graduate from the University of Massachusetts in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, the South Easton resident has had a long and successful nursing career. Her path has included working in long-term care at the Veteran Medical Center in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, and then to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in the Medical-Surgical Intermediate Care Unit.
But Caprie's commitment to being the very best nurse she could be took her to Emmanuel College's Master of Science in Nursing program from which she will graduate this May as she keeps up with her busy life in nursing at Brigham.
What she wasn't expecting was her nomination and selection for the 2015 Excellence in Nursing Education/Teaching Award from the New England Regional Black Nurses Association. It isn't so much an honor that one seeks, but rather one that is conferred by peers who alone can recognize the extraordinary qualities exhibited both on the job and in the community.
Nominated for the prestigious award by her nurse manager and her colleagues, Caprie was recognized for having served as a preceptor to her students over the past seven years.
"She is a dedicated professional committed to her students, giving the students her best each and every day," read her nomination. It also noted her extraordinary commitment to community service through her church organizing health fairs, as well as doing outreach education for medication management, diabetes care, breast health, heart health and blood pressure management.
She was also recently inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society for Nursing, a professional association of nurses established in 1922 to recognize the very best "nurse scholars" for their "love, courage and honor" in nursing.
Her road to Emmanuel College began many years ago, she recalled, while attending a church retreat in Virginia. The bus her group was riding in suddenly began filling with fumes, forcing passengers off the bus; the stricken were attended to by EMTs on the side of the road. "As the members of the church were laying on the ground, I knelt beside a friend and held her hand and assisted the others as I could. I felt a connection to help others and upon my return home from the trip, I informed my mother that I wanted to be a nurse. That day, nursing became a calling for me," she said.
That experience revealed Caprie's natural sense of empathy. She would draw on it after the Boston Marathon bombing when she was caring for a man injured in the attack, along with his wife, while waiting for their daughter at the finish line. "I often would see the husband just looking across the room that he shared with his wife, just staring at her from his bed. I realized that caring for him would have to include being sensitive to his emotional needs as he was grieving the loss of mobility and emotional suffering that his wife was experiencing. Sometimes I just remained silent and just held his hand, listening attentively as he talked about the events on the day of the bombing," Caprie recalled.
The couple recovered and returned home, but still come back to the hospital to thank their caregivers for the treatment they received, she said.
The Master of Science in Nursing program at Emmanuel College was a perfect complement to her profession and education, she said, and Emmanuel has delivered on its promise as a college whose strong ethical standards and values matched her own. "My association with Emmanuel has been one of extreme pleasure. It has inspired me to become a leader in the field of nursing. From the moment I met with Dr. Diane Arathuzik for a pre-admission interview, I knew it was the place for me. The nursing program is committed to the community and serving the urban underserved population, which is also of great importance to me," she said.
Of all her extraordinary achievements, though, she is proudest of her daughter who, like her mother, will soon walk across a commencement stage to receive her master's degree (in psychology). "I come from a loving family. And I am a single parent who has raised an awesome daughter," Caprie said.
It's shaping up to be a pretty impressive year in Caprie Bell's life.