When we last spoke to Samantha Sochan, she was a Nursing student and Academic Mentor who advised students to accept failure as part of the learning process. That lesson still rings true for her today, and she shares her journey from bedside nursing to a nursing educator.
“When I left Simmons School of Nursing, I thought: that was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I felt empowered — I could take on anything!” says Samantha Sochan ’19. Thanks to connections made during her Capstone experience at Boston Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), she landed her first professional position at the Center as a Mother Baby RN, caring for mothers and their newborns.
“During orientation, I was on the day shift,” she says. New nurses from the NICU, Mother Baby, labor and delivery gathered for two hours every week with nursing educators. “We would review neonatal CPR and procedures for code blues [medical emergency]. We also role played and worked with lactation consultants. It was an in-depth orientation, and it helped me become a better nurse.” Inspired by the consultants’ passion, Sochan was thriving. “I was able to do amazing things, like getting twins latched [to the breast] at the same time,” she recalls, “or helping a first time mother with getting her newborn to latch by the end of my shift.”
When she transitioned to the night shift, things changed.
Sochan had already missed the regular social interactions that she had while in school. “At Simmons, I felt as if I was at home; it was such a tight-knit community.” When her friends moved out of Boston after graduation, her social life was altered significantly. Then the transition to night shift changed her entire schedule.
The night shift is a different pace of work, and hospitals schedule only the staff that they need. Sochan didn’t have regular meetings with nurse managers and educators, with no one to call for backup but the resource nurse. “I had my heart set on being a Mother Baby nurse, but it didn’t play out the way I expected. It made me question if this was the right thing for me.” She advocated for herself by speaking to her nursing manager, but there was no way for her to transition back to day shift.
Then, COVID-19 hit.
“Policies were changing every day,” recalls Sochan. “We didn’t have much information about the virus, but we knew that people were getting sick at a fast rate. I would spend the whole night listening to code blues throughout the hospital, and hearing updates from other nurses about people my age passing away [from COVID]. It made me nervous to go to work. I would wake up in a panic.”
Limited resources and a lack of N95 masks on the Mother Baby floor prevented the nurses from protecting their own health. “A lot of patients were asymptomatic. If you’re helping a mother breastfeed, you’re in very close proximity. Then at the end of the shift I would find out the patient had COVID. Working as a Mother Baby nurse was so uplifting — that’s the environment I wanted to be in. I asked myself, at what cost?”
Once her department did acquire N95 masks, the nurses had to reuse them. There was a bin on each unit where the used N95 masks were returned. BMC would "disinfect" the mask and place it in a Tupperware container. They would hand out the "disinfected" masks in the hospital lobby during each change of shift. “The mask had been used by another nurse in the previous shift. It didn’t feel right, but I thought that leaving would be a sign of weakness, so I decided to push through.”
The intense stress had taken a toll on her health. In spite of her reservations, Sochan quit her position, packed up her belongings, ended her lease, and returned to her parent’s home in Connecticut. The return to family was timely; that fall, she lost her grandfather. “In college, I had no time to visit my extended family who lived in Toronto. I always had internships or jobs. When my grandfather passed away, it was life changing. I had always thought my family was right there — the last time that I had visited my grandfather in Toronto was two years prior to his passing.” This was a turning point in Sochan’s life. “I had been so focused on school and my career, that it made me take a step back and value the small moments with family. Before that, I had always worked on holidays and weekends.”
Sochan stayed in Toronto for a while, but had difficulty transferring her nursing license due to COVID-19 delays. “I thought, I’m ‘nursed-out’ right now,” she recalls, “I needed to take a break.” Inspired by a beginners drawing class she took while at Simmons, she applied for a graphic design internship at Tricha Kumar Productions. Sochan learned the process of film production while simultaneously receiving mentorship in graphic design from the ground up, enabling her to create 40 infographics to promote Kumar’s independent short film, “Addiction,” on Instagram. “It forced me to have a different lens,” she says, “I took off my nursing goggles. It was outside of my comfort zone, but I was pushing myself in a positive way.” She also got a job in HVAC sales, which was customer-focused and exposed her to the Microsoft Office suite — programs she wouldn’t have learned at the hospital.
Moving back to Connecticut, Sochan decided to look for work outside of bedside nursing. She started a job as a nurse case manager for MetroCare of Springfield, a home care company that focuses on communities of color. “It resonates with my philosophy as a nurse,” she says. “I want to serve communities of color, because often throughout my life I would have felt more comfortable with a clinician of color. My role helps patients of color and eliminates healthcare disparities.”
To Sochan’s surprise, she fell in love with the company and newfound specialty. She coordinated care for members who were stable at home, including referring them to programs, seeing what devices and pain medications they need, and connecting them with nursing assistance. She no longer spent 12 hours per day at bedside in a hospital, instead she would visit her members briefly over the span of months to years.
Motivated by the career change, Sochan saw ways that she could help the company excel. Using what she had learned from her graphic design and HVAC customer service experiences, she led the transition to electronic documents. Thinking back to the value of the orientation process she had as a day shift nurse at BMC, she created an online nursing department guide to provide answers for new staff, including step by step instructions on how to conduct visits, utilize programs, and complete nursing documentation.
Eventually, this inspired Sochan to create a new position for herself at the company: Clinical Nursing Educator.
“It was one of the most nerve-wracking things that I’ve done in my career! I created a job proposal and met with the CEO and executive team to map it all out,” she says. “I based it all on my time at the company, the problems I saw, and what I could do to improve the nursing department.”
Through it all, there have been additional challenges. As recognition of her work, Sochan was promoted to a nursing manager role, only to find that it disrupted her hard-won work-life balance. She then transitioned back to her previous role as a nursing educator, where she is currently thriving. “My time in this role has provided me with experiences which allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. All of my experiences have come together and each obstacle served a purpose.” She is able to share her value of work-life balance with the nurses she educates. “We’ve increased the number of members and as such, the company is being scaled. I am currently working with my team to provide solutions that will allow the nurses to better manage their workload.”
Thinking back to her difficult decision to leave her job in bedside nursing, Sochan is appreciative of her experiences. By embracing her failures and set-backs, she embarked on a non-traditional nursing path that encompassed the very skills that were considered "non-nursing." “The learning process extends beyond the degree,” she says.