Isabelle Girard, MS-NU ’23, describes how ambition, bravery, and commitment were hallmarks of her education in her Commencement address.

Isabelle Girard has been fascinated by the brain and the science behind human behavior for more than a decade.

As a sophomore at Fairfield Warde High School in Connecticut, that fascination spurred her to successfully be admitted into an Advanced Placement Psychiatric course while also becoming involved in the school’s Child Development and Education program. There, Girard worked in a preschool connected to the school where she went from being a teacher’s helper to eventually designing full-day lesson plans.

Enrolling at Boston University, Girard initially chose pre-med as a major with the goal of becoming a cognitive behavioral psychiatrist for children. But by the end of freshman year, she discovered that becoming a nurse practitioner would align better with the kind of healthcare she wanted to practice. Soon afterwards, Girard learned of the MGH Institute from her physician at Massachusetts General Hospital

“I couldn't believe there was such a perfect program for me,” she said. 

Changing her major to Psychological and Brain Sciences, she targeted the IHP as where she wanted to attend graduate school; in fact, the Institute was the only Master of Science in Nursing program to which she applied.

Girard’s initial clinical rotations at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2020 occurred in the first months of the coronavirus pandemic – an experience that left an indelible mark. 

“Everyone was going through it together, not just students, but every person who was in the hospital was going through at the same time, every person around the world was really going through the same time,” she recalled. “It was probably the first time in my life that I felt like ‘I’m really helping people. I’m doing something here.’"

In her Commencement address, Girard talked about the ABCs – not airway, breathing, and circulation she and her classmates learned in nursing school, but her own ABCs - ambition, bravery, and commitment:

  • “Ambition helped carry us in times of uncertainty and provided us the fuel and motivation we needed throughout this program.”
  • “Voluntarily joining a nursing program amidst a historical health crisis is nothing short of brave.”
  • “We committed to the Institute that gave us the opportunity to appreciate all it takes to become a nurse. And while we committed to our instructors, they committed to us as well. But most of all, we remained committed to the reason we pursued nursing to begin with - in allegiance with MGH Institute’s mission to advance care for a diverse society.”

“It has not been an easy journey, but it has certainly been a rewarding one,” said Girard, who graduated as a psychiatric mental health nurse with a goal of helping provide children and young adults with the support and resources they need to thrive. “I know we will take with us the experiences we have gained from our time at the Institute, and we will thrive with all that we have learned.

And, she concluded, “If you ever find yourselves in a moment of doubt or questioning your ability, just remember your ABCs. They’ve gotten you this far.”

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