Carrington Albuquerque’s Registered Nursing Student Jennie Barton is a Natural Helper
Carrington Albuquerque’s Registered Nursing (RN) student Jennie Barton is a natural helper whose populations of focus are on two very different ends of the spectrum. In her personal time, she loves mentoring girls and teenagers starting their life’s adventures. In her professional time, she hopes to focus her career as an RN caring for military veterans who are dying in hospice care. As an RN student, she has gone outside her usual focus to serve on the student council mentoring students of all different ages. And when the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in her Girl Scout troop’s yearly cookie sales, she found a way to turn the difficult situation into something positive for the larger community during a very challenging time.
Jennie has been a Girl Scout Leader since around 2002 and is currently leading Troop 1680. She first started volunteering with the Girl Scouts when her daughter Kelsey was just six years old. Kelsey has since gone through all the levels of Girl Scouts and bridged to adulthood. Now she helps her mom with the troop along with Jennie’s son, husband, mom, and stepdad. It’s a family affair and today this “super troop,” as Jennie refers to it, is going strong with sixty girls from kindergarten all the way through seniors in high school. They are extremely busy, doing activities just about every weekend.
“The girl who is at home doing nothing but watching TV, I want her out learning. So, we have a range of things that we do from swimming to chess to rock-climbing. My older girls have even flown in single-engine aircraft,” she said.
While leading Troop 1680, Jennie has also been attending Carrington full-time to become an RN. She started in August 2018 and will graduate in August 2020. Her hope is to work in hospice care at the Veterans Administration. She learned through caring for a dying loved one over Christmas break 2018 that she has a gift for communicating with and caring for “grumpy old men,” as she put it.
“They have a need and you just have to figure out what that is. Whether they are lonely, and they need you to come to talk to them for a few minutes and make them feel better. Or you didn’t get the banana on their morning tray and, damn it, they know they ordered it! You figure out what it is. Generally, they are so appreciative that you have a good experience with them. A big part is just showing that you care.”
As the pandemic started making its way through the United States during March of this year, Jennie was in a position to show people working in high-stress, essential roles that the Girl Scouts cared. Her troop usually sells around 24,000 boxes of cookies each year, but when Coronavirus came around there was no way Jennie was going to expose her girls to catching it through in-person sales in front of grocery stores and other locations. So, she was one of the first troops to cancel cookie sales. Fortunately, the Girl Scouts organization bought back a lot of the cookies, leaving them with several thousand to donate. Jennie made arrangements throughout the community and altogether Troop 1680 donated 3,876 boxes of cookies to Kindred and Lovelace Hospitals, multiple fire stations, USPS, local waste management, sign companies, the courts, law enforcement, and the military. It was an opportunity to sweeten up a tough time and teach the girls more about helping their community. Everybody loves Girl Scout cookies!
As Jennie wraps up her RN program at Carrington, she looks forward to becoming part of the community of essential workers she just helped and intends on working with Carrington on her job search. Seniors are the fastest growing population in New Mexico, so there is a large patient population for her to serve. She says that even while being an RN caring for elders, she will always be a Girl Scout troop leader–it just is an inextricable part of who she is.
“If there’s one thing I am passionate about, it’s my girls,” she says. “I plan to be the 80-year-old woman that still has a Girl Scout troop and goes to Girl Scout conventions every three years. To me, it is a life-long commitment.”
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