Heather Foley BSN ‘16 Brings Her Nursing Skills All Over the World
The MCPHS graduate has lived in Mexico and now works as a travel nurse on America’s West Coast.
Heather Foley moved to Mexico City two weeks after graduating from the MCPHS School of Nursing in 2016. She wanted to fulfill her dream of becoming a science teacher before fully launching into her nursing career, and she has a habit of following her dreams. So she took a job as a middle and high school biology teacher at Colegio Eton, in the Mexican capital’s Cuajimalpa de Morelos borough, where she worked for a year and a half creating classroom and lab curriculum, incorporating metacognition and the theory of multiple intelligences, and using the flipped classroom instructional model.
The choice of Mexico City was not random. After graduating from Simmons University with a Bachelor of Science in public health and biology, and working in the Longwood Medical Area for a few years, Heather decided to follow another dream: attending Harvard. In 2014 she completed her master’s in liberal arts extension studies with a concentration in the history of science at the prestigious university; her thesis research pertained to the implementation of contemporary public health law and policy in Mexico City.
The seed to go to Mexico had been planted, but first Heather wanted to follow one more dream. She wanted to be the first nurse in her family, so after Harvard she started looked at nursing schools. MCPHS immediately stood out as her top choice for a myriad of reasons. Among them were the Boston campus’ location in the heart of the Longwood Medical Area and the networking opportunities an MCPHS education would provide. She also says she “fell in love” with the campus architecture and facilities. But most important, Heather says, “As someone who is extremely passionate about science, I loved that the student population shared a centralized focus and collective camaraderie related to healthcare professions. Everyone is studying such interesting, diverse, and important roles within healthcare.” She finished her studies at MCPHS knowing that she would teach in Mexico before practicing as a nurse. “I knew upon graduation from MCPHS University in May 2016 that I wanted to utilize my nursing background and teach in Mexico City," she says. “I am incredibly passionate about U.S.-Mexican relations.”
But Mexico City has not been Heather’s only stop in the four years since she graduated from MCPHS. After finishing her time there, the Massachusetts native then journeyed to Los Angeles, where she completed her residency at UCLA’s Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital. Heather’s peers at UCLA voted her “Rookie of the Year,” and she received the Anna Gawlinski Research and Evidence-based Practice Scholarship Award. But she didn’t settle in L.A. In early 2020 Foley decided that she wanted to do something less conventional with her nursing degree, something that would let her travel and explore: she became a travel nurse. In this new role Heather moves to different communities for an average duration of three months. Travel nurses work directly with an agency and a recruiter to determine the best fit for their next assignment. Heather says the job “is an amazing way to see the world and build confidence as a nurse.” She adds that, with each new position, “You really hit the ground running. You learn and adapt to...a new unit, in a new hospital, in a new U.S. state. I am there to help however I can within my scope of practice and jump right in as an RN.”
Heather’s first travel nurse position was at Providence Willamette Falls Center in Oregon City, Oregon. There she worked in the child and adolescent psychiatry unit, continuing her work in mental health from her time in California. Her next position was with the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Tacoma General Hospital in the state of Washington, with frequent opportunities to float to other units. There she was asked to lead the hospital’s multidisciplinary efforts to implement the infrastructure for the provision of outdoor COVID-19 testing offered free of charge to all members of the community. Today, Heather is working on the newly opened COVID-19 unit within the inpatient geriatric psychiatry department at a community hospital in Auburn, Washington.
Heather says that MCPHS has hugely informed how she practices as a nurse. “MCPHS genuinely grasps both the holistic and socioemotional perspectives of nursing research, policy, and practice. The nursing curriculum at MCPHS strengthens the capability of future nurses to increase health equity, improve the quality of care, and to empower patients... . I appreciate immensely the multicultural, accepting, open-minded, and welcoming environment fostered throughout the MCPHS community, which is something I bring with me wholeheartedly to my clinical practice as a registered nurse today.”
Always with an eye on the future, Heather says that she would love to earn her doctoral degree in nursing and one day become a professor: “I want to be a part of the exciting process of empowering, mentoring, supporting, teaching, and encouraging the next generation of nurses as they embark on their own journey in healthcare and medicine.” She continues, “Ultimately, I want nurses and nursing students to think expansively about their careers and their lives. I seriously believe nursing can be combined with any of your other interests as a human being: whether it is art or finance or law or journalism. The list goes on and on. Nurses should never underestimate or discredit themselves: your powerful voices are needed all over the globe.”