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As a kindergartener, Laura Ashley Prifogle would skip playing outside in favor of flipping through old anatomy and pathophysiology books that her grandmother, a cardiac ICU nurse, kept in her basement. It was part of her inspiration to become a nurse.

Fast forward to 2020 when, as an ER nurse and master’s student at The Ohio State University College of Nursing, she became one of the first in the nation to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and began a crusade to calm fears and vaccinate her community.

“I had seen firsthand what COVID does to people, what it does to their families,” Prifogle said. “The young, the old, the rich, the poor, the Black, the white — COVID knows no prejudice; it is ready and willing to destroy anything in its path.”

Including in her own family. Prifogle’s aunt, Carmella, was afraid of how the vaccine might negatively affect her and refused to get the shot, despite evidence to the contrary that her family provided. Carmella, who Prifogle called “an amazing soul,” contracted COVID-19 and died on March 22, 2021.

“Her daughters now live with the guilt of, ‘Did I bring it to her? Is it my fault? Why didn’t I push the vaccine harder? Why didn’t I just make her get it?’”

A critical time

Many of Prifogle’s schoolmates have joined her on the front lines of the pandemic to save lives, both caring for the sick and getting shots into arms. Their inspiration to lead at a critical time in human history reflects the Ohio State College of Nursing’s aspirational mission to “dream, discover, and deliver a healthier world.”

“Dedicating your life to caring for others is a special calling that our wonderful students, faculty, staff, and alumni take with so much passion and dedication,” said Bernadette Melnyk, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State. “For our college, it means approaching health and well-being holistically and inspiring new generations of clinicians to be leaders in their fields so they can transform healthcare and improve lives.”

Ohio State’s College of Nursing infuses that holistic vision of healthcare into its top-ranked academic programs at all three levels (top-four RN to BSN, top-10 master’s and nurse practitioner programs, top-20 Doctor of Nursing Practice). Curricula includes knowledge and skills in evidence-based practice — a passion point because of the college’s global leadership through its Helene Fuld Health Trust National Institute for Evidence-based Practice in Nursing and Healthcare — and wellness, for which the college and university were recognized by the National Academy of Medicine as a national role model. The college also offers non-nursing degree programs in areas of critical need, including its Master of Healthcare Innovation and Bachelor of Science in Health and Wellness Innovation in Healthcare.

Beyond the classroom, Melnyk said initiatives in primary care practiceinnovationresearch, and workforce development in nursing offered by the college provide opportunities for care and creativity that have broad impacts globally.

As one of the nation’s foremost colleges of nursing for research funding, Ohio State explores transformational science across the lifespan. Its portfolio includes 18 researchers pursuing projects to address health inequities based on social determinants of health, including systemic racism.

“In many cases,” Melnyk explained, “the work we are doing addresses needs at a time when existential crises so very much demand the brand of innovation leadership our college is providing. 

“Our vision is to be the world’s leader in thinking and achieving the impossible. You cannot do that without daring to do what is different, what is needed and what will change the world for the better.”

Prifogle feels that calling. The experience of the pandemic and how it has affected her family inspires her even more to keep pushing for what will affect the greatest change.

“Being a nurse is being a teacher,” Prifogle said. “You teach your patients every day, you teach their families, you teach your peers and you continuously teach yourself.

“I always thought to myself, ‘If I was a nurse, I would want to be a damn good one.’ And I truly feel that I have always given my best to my patients.”

To learn more about The Ohio State University College of Nursing programs and initiatives, visit nursing.osu.edu.

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