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Graduate student tackles duties as nurse, mom

By : Rachel Coker

Faith Burke, who will receive two master's degrees from the Decker School of Nursing, did clinical work at Guthrie Medical in Vestal this spring.

Faith Burke looks forward to Saturday mornings after graduation, when she’ll no longer have to juggle the demands of graduate coursework with her family responsibilities – and the entirely reasonable wish to sleep in.

The Port Crane resident will receive two master’s degrees from the Decker School of Nursing this week, one qualifying her as a family nurse practitioner, the other as a gerontological nurse practitioner.

It’s a moment the Binghamton native and mother of two never expected to see.

Burke received her associate’s degree from Broome Community College in 1988, got married a week later at the age of 22 and went to work as a registered nurse. She tried going back to school a few times, but life always got in the way.

Then, just a few years ago, Burke returned to school with a renewed sense of purpose. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Decker in 2005 and found that, to her surprise, she really enjoyed being a student. “I was a good student in high school,” she said, “but here at Binghamton I’ve had As.”

In fact, Burke is a member of Sigma Theta Tau and Sigma Alpha Lambda honors societies as well as president of the Nursing Graduate Student Organization at Binghamton.

Once she knew she’d have scholarship support, Burke decided to continue on for a master’s degree. She planned to focus on gerontological work, but soon added the family track as well.

“I never do anything simple,” said Burke, who was inspired to focus on gerontology by her experiences as an advocate for her mother, a diabetes patient who requires dialysis.

Judith Webb, a member of Decker’s clinical faculty, said she has been struck by Burke’s intelligence, maturity, compassion and persistence. “Faith has plenty of demands in her life, but never any excuses,” said Webb, who has taught Burke in five different classes.

Burke said her husband, Joseph, a Binghamton police officer, and their two children, Emily, 14, and Joseph, 12, were supportive throughout her time in school, as was her older stepdaughter, Nicole. Still, two master’s degrees meant more courses, more reading and lots more hands-on learning through clinical experiences.

“I’ve been lucky because I get to see so much more,” said Burke, who continued to work on a per-diem basis for Elizabeth Church Manor while in school. “The more clinical you have, the more confident you are.”

Burke said she enjoys the roles nurse practitioners get to play. They can be clinicians, educators and counselors all rolled into one, she said, taking a more holistic approach than many doctors.

“No two days are the same,” Burke said. “I’m constantly learning.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08