For Nursing Graduate, Empathy is Career Skill That’s Personal 

December 5, 2022 | Graduate News, News, Student Success, UToday, Alumni, Nursing
By Kirk Baird

In a couple of weeks, Katherine “Kitty” McMillan graduates with a bachelor of science degree in nursing.

But that wasn’t her original plan.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: UToledo recognizes the Class of 2022 with a series of stories featuring students receiving their degrees at fall commencement.

While first taking classes at The University of Toledo through the College Credit Plus program in high school at the age of 14, McMillan, now 20, was certain she would major in law and social thought and minor in political science.

“My thinking was that if I went to school for political science essentially, that I would then be able to help people who are less fortunate by meeting with them, talking with them about their problems and then trying to make new laws and programs to help them,” she said. “I switched majors to nursing because I am not bold and tough enough to be in politics. People would describe me more as docile, caring and sweet.

“I have always just wanted to make a positive difference in the world and help people who are struggling in any way … and in nursing I would still be able to help others and make a positive difference. Plus, it also never hurt that my grandma, who is someone I love, care and look up to, was a nurse.”

McMillan’s efforts to prioritize her own mental health helped reaffirm her career as a nurse to help others stay healthy.

In elementary school, McMillan began to deal with generalized anxiety. And at the age of 13, she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. McMillan, who was born in Vietnam, adopted at 10 months old and considers Rossford to be her hometown, describes herself as a perfectionist worried about falling short of impossible standards.

“I lived in fear of messing up my whole life because I feared the consequences. I feel like my perfectionism was a coping mechanism to help me feel more in control, but it also led to me putting a lot of stress on myself,” she said. “As I grew older, I learned to cope with my anxiety by trying to be more realistic and just adapting the mindset that as long as I try my best, that is all that matters.”


Her depression, however, is something she vigilantly manages every day with a routine that includes therapy, walking and biking outdoors, socializing with friends and daily medication.

McMillan also went to UToledo’s Counseling Center for her initial therapy and said they were a great resource.

“I think it is so incredibly important to discuss mental health openly and honestly so there is no stigma or shame,” she said. “It is something every single person will experience at one time or another in their lives.”

McMillan works as a nursing assistant at UTMC’s Kobacker Center, which provides adolescent mental health services, and plans to move to Columbus following graduation to work as an outpatient pediatric pulmonary nurse at Nationwide’s Children’s Hospital.

Her mental health struggles, she said, have changed for the better in her profession.

“I am more empathetic for sure, and it makes it easier to know how to react and talk to patients that are struggling with mental health,” McMillan said. “My struggles have made me more resilient and ready to get back up when I fall down.”

Sharmeta Gibbon, an instructor in the College of Nursing, offered this advice to her former student.

“Nursing is the most rewarding-but-challenging profession,” Gibbon said. “The one thing I want Kitty to remember in life — especially as she transitions from student to nurse — is to be kind and patient with herself.

“One quote that comes to mind is, ‘Forgive yourself, you are not perfect. Show yourself grace; you are still learning. Show yourself patience; you are on a journey.’ ”

McMillan said she is ready for this new life chapter.

“UToledo has prepared me for my career by teaching me how to be a strong, innovative caring nurse,” she said. “It has helped mold me into the dedicated, passionate and eager learner I am today.”



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