Ms. Fyrberg

For her senior spring term project, Tianyi Shen interviewed women administrators at Govs. Here is her interview with the Director of the Health Center, Ms. Kacie Fyrberg

Tianyi Shen, Editor

Q1. How did you decide to enter the education field? Why did you choose to do healthcare in a school setting?

I always knew that I wanted to be involved in healthcare, be it related to animals or people. When I saw an opportunity at Boston Mass General, I took it. Then, while I was in NP (nurse practitioner) school, I worked at a teen health center at a local high school, and that was when I realized I wanted to do healthcare in a school setting. 

Working in healthcare in an educational setting is definitely unique in that I am providing healthcare but there are also opportunities for me to form much broader connections with my patients and students. Whether that’s engaging with the student’s advisor or coaches, I am able to help them troubleshoot and support them in a broader way as opposed to just fixing a sore throat, for example.

Were there any role models that inspired you along the way?

Yes, the nurse practitioner who was in my job before was definitely a role model for showing me how to care for patients. When she decided to move up the ladder in administrative positions, I took her job and worked there for seven years.

There was also another role model that I was lucky enough to have, which was a nursing placement at my old pediatrician’s office. I got to work with the NP that I really trusted as a young patient, and that was pretty cool, too. 

Q2. What does your day-to-day work include, and what do you find particularly meaningful?

Every day’s different for me, because you never know what’s coming. But basic work, including getting overnight reports with my team, looking at the schedule for the day, and working with scheduled appointments happens every day. In addition to that, I also serve an administrative role as a department head, so there are admin duties there. 

I am really thankful to be able to be involved in both direct patient care and administration. I don’t know if I could do admin duties necessarily all the time, and direct patient care is “the bread and butter” for nursing, so I am grateful that I can have a balance of the two.

In terms of what I find meaningful, being the head of the health center is a very unique and rewarding position to be in. I have a fantastic team, and the collegiality is crucial to our work together. There are challenging days for all of us, but at the end of it, we all come back the next day because we know somebody else needs support, and we want to be there for them. Whether that be physical, mental, social, or emotional, there are vulnerable moments that kids are having when they come into the health center and that doesn’t go unnoticed. We’re fortunate and trusted to be allowed into their worlds and it’s not taken for granted.

You mentioned that healthcare has expanded in education in the past few years. What are some changes you have seen in your time at Govs?

I think it goes without saying that mental health is a big focus nowadays. It’s a huge part of it what we’re trying to provide. There have always been cases where a student would come in and be like, “I have a really sore throat,” when they’ve just had a fight with their parents or their parents were going through a divorce and they just feel awful. Post-pandemic, we’re seeing deeper and broader mental health issues.

That is, in my opinion, what makes a really good nurse: someone who is not just looking at the symptom but at the whole patient, who thinks about not only what they can provide medically in that moment but how to “plant a seed” and provide support moving forward.

There’s another unique setting here at Govs compared to primary care that I enjoy. In primary care, visits are limited to 15, 30-minute appointments, but here there is more flexibility and more time for us to look at the whole picture.

Q3. How has your experience as a female faculty at Govs been? 

To be honest, I’ve generally felt very supported as a female faculty member here. And if you were asking specifically [what my treatment was like] relative to male faculty members, I feel very fortunate that I have, for the most part, felt supported. 

My role is different in that I don’t have a male counterpart, so there isn’t a direct opportunity for comparison, like in the English department. In terms of my perception of such, I think we’re continuing to talk about it. 

Do I think there’s continued work to be done, having female leaders or administrators feel that it is an equitable space? Yes. But that is also reflective of our world as a whole, and we need to take steps to make progress happen.

Q4. What changes do you envision for healthcare (in education) in the future? 

My hope is that education continues to keep pace with innovations, opportunities, and the reality.

Out of the three things that I want to comment on, I feel that I have the most confidence on innovations. We have all these scientists and everyone working on these breakthroughs, so I hope it’s only going to expand our educational abilities.

The other two parts are what I wish we could work more on, including opportunities relative to equity and what we’ve talked about before. It’s a lofty goal, but there are ways to make fruitful results. 

Another thing I wish for, given my role and what I see here, in educators and educational institutions is that I hope they will continue to have reality checks with their students. These include what the kids and young adults’ lives are actually like and what they’re going through. What I often see is an imbalance in students’ lives. Students here are so driven, motivated, and there are goals and there are pressures, internal, external, family, peer, and opportunities to try to take advantage of; but we’re seeing fallout from just focusing on that. I hope that we will always remember as educators how to teach a child to be a happy, healthy, and functional human first.