MEET OUR STUDENTS: Fiona Adams: A Nurse’s Tale Framed in Scottish Lore

Fiona Adams’ footsteps through life have often echoed that of her mother’s. By all accounts, her mum was a typical Scottish woman with a streak of dogged independence and a bit of wanderlust. Only a young lass of 19, Sweeney left Scotland alone, braving the North Atlantic to come to America where she knew no one. Her only prospect of earning a living was found in the want ads for a live-in nanny posted by a wealthy family in Barrington, Rhode Island. As luck would have it, Sweeney was hired.

Like her mother, Fiona has worked as a nanny for the past seven years for the same child, though not as a live-in. Her mother would later become an RN at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island. Fiona, too, is studying to be a nurse at Rhode Island College.

Fiona chose RIC, she said, not because of its highly regarded nursing program. What initially drew her was the Caregiving and Society Learning Community.

The program is limited to 20 students per semester and is designed for freshmen who intend to major in nursing. “It’s a recruiting tool,” said Mary Byrd, professor of nursing, who heads the program. “I obtain a list of students who have been admitted to the college for the fall but who have not committed to come to the college. I review their SAT scores and their class rank and explain to them about the learning community.” According to Byrd, RIC’s School of Nursing recruits only the best and brightest, such as Fiona, whose high school GPA was 3.8. “What we do in the learning community is acclimate these students to life at RIC and to the nursing program,” said Byrd.

“In the first two semesters, we lived together in a suite in Browne Hall and took all of our classes together,” Fiona said. “The learning community was a great experience for me because it helped me make friends and find study partners, and it got me more involved at RIC. I’m now a member of the RIC Student Nurse Association. Seven of us who were in the learning community have remained close and still live together in a suite in Weber Hall.”

In her sophomore year, Fiona was accepted into the nursing program. She and her suite mates often practice what they're learning on each other, such as checking for vital signs, blood pressure and heart rate, then they round up girlfriends and boyfriends to practice on. “The School of Nursing – the faculty and the students – are like one big family,” she said.

A yearning for family is also something she and her mother share. Though lured away from her homeland long ago by the call of adventure, Fiona’s mother ensured that her own children would not forget their origins. Every three years she has traced and retraced her steps back to family, taking her wee ones with her. 

“In Scotland, all 25 of my first cousins and I gather at Granny’s house,” said Fiona. “I can see myself living in Scotland some day. My uncle owns many of the nursing homes there, so there is certainly work for a nurse.”

Perhaps Fiona will pass on to her children her own legend of life in two lands, a life of adventure and service. Folklorists say that Scotlanders value such tales as much as courage.