UMDNJ Brainiac: Chris Monahan
words by Eve Jacob / photograph by Andrew Hanenberg
hris Monahan is a man on the move — in his chosen field of nursing. Soon to graduate from SN’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program, he epitomizes a new wave of nurses with broader educational backgrounds, more diverse work histories and more opinions about their roles in healthcare. A graduate of Seton Hall University’s honors program with a degree in finance and economics, he is intrigued by languages (German, Latin and his native English were among his favorite school subjects), spent years during high school and college working for an investment management firm, has a vivid interest in how economic policy affects politics, and went abroad to study business in London.
But when it came time to choose a profession, it was his deep attachment to his grandmother and the impact of her terminal illness and experiences with the healthcare system that inspired his decision. “I grew up in a two-family house with her,” he says. “She was like my second mom.”
So, when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 66, not only was it a terrible shock for him, but also an eye-opener in many ways. “I knew that it was a difficult cancer to beat,” he states. “Prior to this, she had had no medical conditions at all.”
Monahan vividly remembers the nurses who came to give his grandmother home care. “They were positive, but honest. They kept things real,” he says.
He noticed that the physicians, on the other hand, “were working from a model of fixing and conquering.” But what truly disturbed him was what he calls “the physicians’ nonchalance” about his grandmother and her illness. (She went into remission for six months, but died after just two years.)
Encouraged by his college professors to follow his interest in healthcare by applying to medical school, Monahan decided that nursing better matched his personal values — being good to others and giving back to your community. But perceiving himself as a leader, and someone who “likes to be responsible for my decisions,” he is intent on “breaking stereotypes of nurses being subservient to a physician.”
He thinks that utilizing nurses better in expanded roles is the best way to reduce healthcare costs and that nurses will be pivotal in the changing healthcare environment. “We can save hospitals a lot of money,” he says.
Monahan says the nursing program in Newark not only gave him the skills to practice his profession, but has prepared him in other ways by “exposing me to people from many different backgrounds and different viewpoints. I came into the program thinking I wouldn’t make any serious friendships, but I made some really good friends.”
As president of the Student Government Association, he has dedicated himself to creating a welcoming school environment, particularly reaching out to new students and members of the community in need of care, such as veterans with PTSD. When he has some “down-time,” keeping up with current events, travel and cooking (his best dish is eggplant parmigiana) are high on his list.
Who influenced him the most at SN? Instructor in the BSN Prelicensure Programs, Sharon Anderson, RN, APN, “embodies everything a teacher should be,” he says. “She is so personally invested in the success of her students. When a teacher wants you to succeed, it brings out the best in you.”
This soon-to-be graduate is thinking about his next big step — most likely it will be Navy nursing (or a similar nurse residency program). “I would like to give back to my country,” Monahan says. He sees it as both a “good opportunity” and a “coming of age experience.” Oncology and critical care call to him.
What drives Monahan forward? His commitment to family and his deep rooted values. “My dad is a police officer. My mother is an administrative assistant. I come from a humble working background. It would have been much easier to come from an affluent family, but when I look back, I can say nothing was handed to me. I have incentive to work hard. It’s a big part of who I am.”