From a single mother on welfare, to a lifesaver and, later, as a nurse educator, Jennifer Morrell has witnessed the power of learning.
It was during Morrell’s shift at a local restaurant that she noticed a patron across the room choking violently. The swath that Morrell cut through the busy eatery in order to administer the Heimlich maneuver gave stunned onlookers a glimpse into Morrell’s future.
“I worked the weekend shift at the restaurant to support myself and my little girl,” said Morrell, RN, BSN '07, MSN ‘12. “I was a 19-year-old single mother on welfare with no direction, alone and scared."
Defusing the choking episode was a defining moment for Morrell that she said ignited her inspiration to help others.
“I confided this to a career counselor at the welfare office, and with his guidance, enrolled in a local program to become a licensed practical nurse,” she noted.
Morrell, soon after, entered the practical nurse program at Bucks County Technical School in Levittown, Pa., juggling work, her studies and motherhood. During her commencement speech to fellow graduates, her attention was again drawn by someone across the room. From the podium, Morrell’s gaze caught the jubilant face of her young daughter beaming back at her.
“As I delivered my speech, I surveyed the room and found my daughter among the many people seated in the audience," said Morrell. “I was elated.”
She next completed her associate degree in nursing at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pa.; and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees at Thomas Edison State College.
Morrell has stood at many podiums since and continues to enjoy a fusion of patient care and clinical instruction. Today, Morrell works as a nurse educator for a practical nursing program at a large health system in Mercer County, N.J. She also works in the Clinical Education and Research Department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., where she disseminates hospital-wide information and conducts educational training for medical center staff, including nurses, residents and other practitioners.
Through her career progression, she has remained connected to her LPN origins.
“I feel compelled to stick to my roots and encourage every student to believe in themselves,” Morrell said. She feels equally compelled to serve the community as an example that education precedes success and does all she can to support better patient care. She also feels that her three daughters continue to fuel her drive to succeed.
“I believe I’ve successfully conveyed to them that education builds the foundation to move beyond all boundaries,” she said. “They inspire me every day to be the best person and advocate I can be. Without a doubt it is a challenge to fit the nursing courses into my busy home life and career, but my children see me achieving my goals and this serves as a good example for them.”