Devon Palermo '14 uses her psychology background to navigate challenging situations
Devon Palermo ’14
Neonatal intensive care nurse (Washington, D.C.)
Devon Palmero ’14 is a neonatal intensive care nurse in the NICU unit of a hospital in the Washington, D.C., area. A neonatal nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and assesses, monitors, and cares for medically fragile newborns. In addition to caring for premature newborns, NICU nurses may care for medically complex infants up to 1 year of age in some facilities. Like other critical care areas of nursing, this area is highly specialized and fast paced.
Some students may not realize that a psychology background is a great precursor to a career in medicine and patient care. What was it about majoring in psych that prepared you for your career?
I was a neuroscience major at Lafayette and as part of my course of study took numerous psychology courses. These courses helped prepare me to think critically through challenging coursework and team projects, which are both a huge part of working in medicine. I was also able to learn about the human psyche and human experience in my psychology courses, considering motives, culture, development, behavior, etc. While working in the neonatal intensive care unit, I am constantly using my psychology background to navigate challenging situations and provide support to parents. I always say that nurses wear many hats, and being an unofficial psychologist is certainly one of them.
How and when did you discover that you have a passion for patient care and especially for working with premature babies?
I always knew I wanted to work in health care. Going into Lafayette I was considering many career options including medical school, a master’s in neuroscience, nursing, occupational therapy, and the list goes on. I had an interest in science and the body, and put simply, wanted to help people. It wasn’t until my junior year that I really started thinking of a concrete career path. I realized that nursing was a direct way of providing full, thorough care and really loved the idea of being emotionally involved and connected to people. As a nurse, you really get to know your patients and families intimately. I fell in love with the NICU during nursing school clinical and got very lucky landing my first job as a neonatal nurse.
You recently came back as a (virtual) guest speaker for Prof. Lauren Myers’ course during the fall semester. What did you personally take away from that experience?
I loved having the opportunity to ‘meet’ current students virtually and discuss my career. They were such a great audience and had some really insightful questions and comments. It took me back to when I was at that stage and unsure of what career path I was interested in. I can only hope that some of them will consider nursing. Regardless, it was definitely a fun way of connecting with students.
What advice would you offer to current psychology students about how they can apply what they are currently learning to their future careers?
I would say to current students to remember the big picture while you’re in college. It’s (sadly) only four years, so make the most of this opportunity to experience everything that is available to you. Try new things, take new classes, and go outside of the box. Your background in psychology will serve you well in virtually every career path, so try not to stress too much about the details, and trust the process.