Alumni Profile: Alexis Yannone '20 RN

Alumni Profile: Alexis Yannone '20 RN

Photo of Alexis Yannone

Guiding Patients Through End-of-Life Transitions

If we lose a patient, we go through all the feelings, too. But it feels more rewarding to know that I did everything I could to help them be comfortable.

— Alexis Yannone ’20

Some nurses will tell you they got into the profession because they were inspired by a favorite aunt or they survived a childhood illness because of the skilled and steadfast care of a modern-day Florence Nightingale.

Alexis Yannone ’20 is not one of those people.

“It’s not one of those unique stories,” the Massachusetts native said. “I wanted to be a nurse because I liked anatomy and physiology. There is a lot of variety and I liked the idea of lifelong learning.”

It’s probably Yannone’s clear-eyed, self-possessed nature that made her such a good fit for nursing school and, in particular, Fairfield’s Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies. At Fairfield, she completed a comprehensive nursing program in a state-of-the-art setting where she found herself inspired by the School’s emphasis on palliative, or end-of-life, care.

Marking its fifth anniversary in 2021, Fairfield Egan’s Kanarek Center for Palliative Care Nursing Education influences the entire curriculum, integrating an evidence-based, quality-of-life focus in every nursing course Yannone ever took.

“I just figured that’s how every nursing program was, but it’s not,” she said.

Yannone truly appreciated the palliative care-infused curriculum in August 2020, when she started her first “real” job on an 18-patient medical/surgical unit at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. At the end of orientation, her nursing director encouraged her to set some short- and long-term goals for her career. Yannone began a discussion about end-of-life care and least-to-most invasive methods for helping patients through transitions.

Yannone’s supervisor, who has become a trusted mentor, asked if she’d like to organize the unit’s Comfort Care Bag program. Designed for patients at the end of life, each bag includes a blanket, fuzzy socks, lip balm, hard candy, and soothing lotion that is not the industrial kind you might find in a hospital.

Yannone collects the donated items from friends she has reached out to on Facebook. She also includes a poem for the family and a poster to enter information about the patient’s life and career, as well as favorite foods, colors, and movies, to help make connections with his or her caregivers.

“It opens up something you can talk about with the families and the patients,” she said. “People often want to pass at home, but it’s not always feasible. This gives the family members something they can do, some way they can help make the patient more comfortable.”

Yannone thinks the project also helped her deal with the reality of not having a traditional commencement at the end of her University experience because of Covid-19 restrictions. “I needed some sense of closure and using what they had taught me has helped,” she said.

In addition to her work with the Comfort Care Bag program, Yannone will soon be involved in the hospital’s Messenger team, a community outreach program to address health disparities. She explained that the all-volunteer group disseminates Covid-19 information in targeted communities and distributes hygiene bags to the homeless.

Volunteering and service to others are second nature to Yannone. In fact, that’s why she chose Fairfield. Back when they were visiting prospective colleges, her mom insisted her daughter go eat at each campus’s cafeteria and strike up conversations with current students about the school’s distinct atmosphere.

As an adult, she can find the wisdom in her mom’s tactics that eluded her as a teen. At the time, “I was mortified!” she said with a laugh. “But it really paid off.”

In the Tully at Fairfield, everyone she met mentioned his or her extracurricular involvement on campus, something that was very important to her. Once enrolled, Yannone augmented a busy nursing school schedule with stints as a University tour ambassador, spin instructor, and teaching assistant at the Egan School. She was co-president of Play Like a Girl, a club promoting fitness and health.

Approaching her one-year anniversary at Mass General, Yannone enjoys tackling “a little bit of everything” with her tight-knit team of co-workers. She’s currently looking forward to shadowing a nurse practitioner who specializes in palliative care, an experience that might lead to graduate school.

Some might think such work would be depressing. Not Yannone.

“I’m pretty good at separating work and life,” she said. “If we lose a patient, we go through all the feelings, too. But it feels more rewarding to know that I did everything I could to help them be comfortable.”

Other Articles in the Summer 2021 Issue

Letter from the President

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On the Mound

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Fighting Back

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From Raj to Republic

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Our Common Home

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Alumni Profile: Erica (Trombly) Harp ’14, RN – BSN, CPLC

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Donor Profile: Shannon (Barry) and Steve J. Siwinski ’92, P’16

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