The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Meet Ann Kerwood: Veteran, Nurse, Information Technologist

Date: 
Jun 14, 2019
 

Ann Kerwood, RN, BS '13, IT Director for Acute Care and Ambulatory Services at Berkshire Health Systems in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, completed the Accelerated BS in Nursing  program at UMass Amherst in 2013. She shares her nursing story here:  

 

What inspired you to become a nurse?

I always wanted to be a nurse. Unfortunately, when I graduated from high school I couldn’t afford to go to college.  Instead, I joined the US Army during my senior year and spent four years in military intelligence working with computers. After I served my tour, I decided to go to college to study Information Technology (IT). 

My mother and aunt both died of lung cancer, 20 years apart.  When my aunt was ill with cancer, I was inspired by the nurses in the inpatient hospice who were very kind and helped us through my aunt’s passing.  A few years later, the company I worked for went bankrupt and I had the chance to start over.  I decided to go to nursing school.  I wanted to work at hospice so that I could make a difference in the lives of people dealing with a terminal illness.

Describe any other degrees or credentials you have earned.

I have an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and I earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing via the UMass Amherst Accelerated BS in Nursing.

Please tell us about your career path and how you arrived in your current position.

I did my senior internship at Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) on the Oncology unit.  After graduation and taking the boards, I secured a position on the same unit.  Prior to starting my position on the unit, I went to the BMC Wound Center and asked if I could shadow.  I ended up working both as a staff nurse at the hospital and a wound care nurse at our wound center.  I spent two years doing both and loved it.

Based on my 20+ years of experience in IT as well as experience as a registered nurse, I was offered the position of IT Director for Acute Care and Ambulatory Services for Berkshire Health Systems.  I oversee a team of clinical analysts and managers who support the IT systems used at two hospitals, a cancer center, multiple renal dialysis centers, multiple wound centers, radiology, lab, etc.  This includes multiple Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems as well as other applications. My goal is to provide nurses with good systems and workflows which in turn will help them to provide better care for our patients.  I have been in the position for 4 years.  We have just started a project to upgrade and combine all of our EHR into one system. 

Would you like to share a few of the highlights or special memories of your nursing career?

My most memorable moments on the oncology floor related to being with the patients and their families in those difficult moments.  Knowing how I felt when my mother passed, I made it a point to ensure that both the patient and their family received comfort.  I felt blessed to be a part of their experience.  In wound care, helping to provide the care which helped heal the patient was satisfying.  Educating the patient on self-care was also very rewarding.

How has your UMass Amherst nursing education influenced your career?

I would not be in the position I am in today if I had not earned my BS in Nursing at UMass Amherst.  My degree enabled me to begin my career at Berkshire Medical Center.  My experience in Information Technology and my clinical experience put me in a unique position which the health system felt was what they needed at the time.  I am grateful for the opportunity. 

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a nursing career?

Based on my path to nursing, I would say to anyone that it is never too late.  If you have a dream or a goal, go for it because it can be done.  I would also say that even if you are not interested in floor nursing, there are so many other opportunities.  There are so many different paths available including informatics.  As the IT Director, I am always looking for nurses who have clinical experience who want to help improve patient care by improving the working environment of the clinical staff.

Where do you see the nursing profession heading? 

As nurses, we need to continue to be a part of the legislative process and work to improve healthcare for our patients as well as the working environment for nurses.  I feel that as the cost of providing care increases, in addition to the shortage of physicians, there will be an even greater need for nurse practitioners.