When Alverno nursing student Ariyah Kirkendoll, class of 2023, sees her primary care provider, she receives more than health care — she also gets mentorship and advice from a fellow Alverno sister. That’s because her provider is family nurse practitioner and triple Alverno alumna Clarissa Lawrence ’12 ’18 DNP ’21, the founder of Community Health PCS, a mobile in-home private practice in Milwaukee.
Kirkendoll’s mother, who is also Lawrence’s patient, first discovered the Alverno connection and asked if Lawrence would mentor her daughter. Lawrence, who is also a national mentor for the American Nurses Association and a nurse practitioner preceptor, immediately said yes.
“Mentorship is very dear to my heart,” says Lawrence, who has mentored more than 50 students over the years. “Especially for my Alverno sisters, I always like to reach back and help.”
Lawrence didn’t find her own mentor until later in her undergraduate nursing program.
“Even though I was successful and had a strong family support system, if I would’ve had someone that actually understood what I was going through, I feel like I would’ve had a better experience,” she says. “That’s why I said, ‘I’m going pay it forward.’ Because I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re not supported.”
For Lawrence, mentorship can mean sharing encouraging words over the phone or text, fielding questions about nursing education and life post-graduation, or giving advice on the best questions to ask during a job interview. Those small gifts of time are so important, she says.
“In the nursing and medical field, it’s so easy for us to get wrapped up in our careers, but I think that it’s just so fulfilling when you think about those who are behind you, who need you — they need to see you,” she says. “Especially with women of color because we don’t always have the role models or the family support. To lift them up when they need it means so much to me.”
Thanks to Lawrence’s example, Kirkendoll is already thinking about getting her nurse practitioner degree and eventually opening her own practice.
“She’s an inspiration,” says Kirkendoll, who has aspired to become a nurse since middle school. “I think it’s important to see people who look like you or people who’ve had similar experiences doing what you’re doing and not only doing it but thriving.”
And Lawrence feels certain that Kirkendoll will thrive, too.
“I feel like she’s going to be an excellent nurse because the compassion is there,” Lawrence says. “And that’s so important because going into nursing is difficult, and especially with trying to overcome the pandemic and with burnout, sometimes we get compassion fatigue. So with her having that and being such a soft and gentle person, I think that is exactly what the nursing profession needs.”