Discovering nursing | OHSU Foundation

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Sana Goldberg ’16 was set on becoming a journalist as she headed to college. But after a 10-year journey, she found herself in nursing school at OHSU where she discovered the power and role nurses play in health care.

The road to nursing wasn’t a straight line. In college, Goldberg declared multiple majors before landing on psychology. She spent her summers in the lab, focused on behavioral neuroscience.

After graduating, she continued in research in a developmental brain-imaging lab at OHSU. She spent her afternoons with 12- to 18-year-olds doing neuropsychological evaluations. It was through these interactions that one thing became clear: Goldberg longed for more personal connection in her profession.

Becoming a nurse

Goldberg grew up in the world of medicine. Her mother was a nurse, then entered medical school to become a physician. As a child, Goldberg saw a profession in health care as late nights on call or working during dinnertime.

But Goldberg eventually followed her mother’s path in medicine, her passion for human health surpassing the long hours and intense training. She started at an adult residential home to improve health and wellness, and worked collaboratively with the nurses on navigating insurance, family dynamics and health care systems.

Through her interactions with nursing coworkers, she discovered nursing to be a way to work in the mental health field, which she had been interested in since college. She decided to enroll in the OHSU School of Nursing’s accelerated BSN program.

“When I went through the nursing program, I understood how expansive this role is and the way nurses have roles in leadership and policy,” she said. “I used to — and I think others do, too — have a narrow, singular view of what a nurse does. And it’s so far off from the reality.”

As a student, Goldberg not only provided patient care — from administering flu shots to assisting with immediate cardiac arrest response — but she went to the state capitol to discuss gun purchasing loopholes with representatives.

She also worked with transgender Iranian refugees who struggled to access hormone therapy as part of her population health class with OHSU School of Nursing faculty member Kristen Beiers-Jones, RN.

“That changed everything,” she said. “I had never done anything like it. That’s when I saw how nurses are shaping public health.”

It was the kickstart Goldberg needed to define her role in the field of nursing: a patient advocate.

In 2018, she presented with Beiers-Jones at the World Congress of Cultural Psychiatry in New York City. Together, they shared about the struggles faced by transgender refugees. Goldberg also published articles on Buzzfeed and the health blog, MindBodyGreen. She founded the nonprofit Nightingale Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to promoting health equity through stories written by nurses and other health care professionals.

“I want to take all these things I’ve learned in nursing school and help individuals feel capable to advocate for themselves. I think there’s a lot of fear, distress and ambivalence that goes into accessing medicine today.”

Her writings led to her most recent accomplishment: a published book. In March 2019, Goldberg published How to Be a Patient: The Essential Guide to Navigating the World of Modern Medicine.

“I want to help people feel more empowered with the health care system,” she said. “I want to take all these things I’ve learned in nursing school and help individuals feel capable to advocate for themselves. I think there’s a lot of fear, distress and ambivalence that goes into accessing medicine today.”

Goldberg’s efforts to empower patients and improve health care haven’t gone unnoticed. This past summer, Goldberg was awarded the OHSU School of Nursing Early Career Achievement Award, an honor given to a graduate who has made a significant impact in their area of work and who has demonstrated a commitment to mentoring and educating the next generation of nurses.

One nominator wrote: “She has accomplished more than many hope to do at the end of a long career. She wants the world to understand the full scope of what a nurse is.”

Despite all of her accomplishments, Goldberg remains hyper-focused on patients. Today, she practices in New Haven, Connecticut, while pursuing graduate studies at Yale University. She wants to shape public health by concentrating on issues such as the opioid epidemic and substance abuse disorders.

For Goldberg, her nursing profession will always be centered around patient care and advocacy — empowering individuals in their communities to navigate health care systems, and to advocate for their own better health.