Nurse Heather Fitzgerald advocates patient-centered ethics in health care
A career in theater propelled Heather Fitzgerald, BSN ’03, across the globe. Cues and curtain calls took her to Tokyo, Los Angeles and New York before she moved to Denver.
“While the theater does illuminate the human spirit and is a mission-driven endeavor, I had a deeper itch to scratch,” Fitzgerald recalls, "to pursue something that would get me even closer to serving and responding to the human experience. Nursing provides that in abundance.”
Fitzgerald began her Bachelor of Science in Nursing 18 years after earning her first undergraduate degree. “Initially it felt a bit daunting, but the education was so stimulating it fueled me and confirmed I’d made the right choice,” says Fitzgerald. “My experience at Regis was terrific – quite rigorous and deeply rooted in the Jesuit tradition – which is in great agreement with the patient-centered, compassionate, ethical foundations of nursing practice.”
Now a clinical nurse ethicist and developmental specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Fitzgerald serves as a member of the core faculty for the hospital’s ethics committee. She works in ethics education, consultation and policy review across all clinical settings. “If we don’t think about the ethical implications of what we are doing in health care, we fail our patients and we fail our professions,” says Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald also works in the neonatal intensive care unit as a developmental specialist where she interprets babies’ stress and competence behaviors. “We are encountering vulnerability in our patients and patients’ families,” she says. “We must think actively about an ethic of character, of conducting ourselves according to the highest professional standards, especially in high stakes, high stress environments.”
Explore health care ethics with a degree in nursing from Regis University.