Nursing program is impetus for healing and sharing

Nursing graduate is driven to share her story and
 raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

When Andy Nourse met someone new, he asked “What’s your story?” as a way to learn more about his new acquaintance. Little did his wife, Jacquie Nourse ’16, know that her story would take her down a path paved with the grief and anger of suicide, and ultimately, strengthen her resolve to help others. 

The story of Jacquie and Andy

whats-your-story-artJacquie and Andy met in the Army while stationed in Germany. Both Wisconsin natives, they immediately bonded over the Badgers and Packers, were married overseas and returned to Wisconsin where they happily started a family, adding daughter Caitlin and son Carter. But the return home was painful, as well. While Jacquie pursued her passion by enrolling in a nursing program at nearby Northcentral Technical College, Andy was often gripped by depression and had trouble keeping a job.

Andy’s struggle with depression worsened. “Each June he would go into a funk where he wasn’t happy with our marriage, with life; he would spend money frivolously and blame it on his time in the military,” Jacquie said. She knew it stemmed from some tough deployments (Gulf War, Bosnia and Somalia) but Andy chose not to share his memories from those experiences.

In spring of 2014, Andy moved out of their home, and two weeks later, asked for a divorce. Jacquie was still hopeful, despite juggling her work as a nurse, managing divorce court requirements and time between her husband and children. In July, she and Caitlin returned from a trip to Summerfest and met up with Andy and Carter. “He came over to see the kids, and I could tell he was ‘off’. When he left that night, he hugged those kids like I had never seen him do before.”

Merely a day later, she received the call that no wife wants to receive — Andy had taken his
own life.

Moving Forward

Jacquie-Nursing-truckAfter the blur of a funeral and with “incredible” support of her family and friends, Jacquie was able to secure appropriate veterans’ survivor benefits and take some time off work immediately following Andy’s death. When she was ready, and with the support of her children, she enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program through UW-Green Bay.

It was a good fit. The UW-Green Bay program offers both face-to-face and online classes and places a strong emphasis on community health nursing, explains Rebecca Hovarter, UW-Green Bay lecturer. “Community health nurses need to function with a higher level of critical thinking,” says Hovarter. “We encourage students in the program to look at all aspects of each patient, and their mental health is always a critical part of that.”

The program was ideal for Jacquie. She was able to reflect on and study her own personal story, and with the benefit of hindsight, her husband’s struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She realized that there is not enough awareness and programming, particularly for military veterans who are struggling with PTSD. According to the National Center for PTSD, about eight out of every 100 people will experience PTSD in their lifetime.

“I knew that Andy struggled with depression,” said Jacquie, “but he was also someone who was very stubborn when it came to getting help or taking medication. He thought he just ‘needed to get through this’ to feel better.” As she went through his belongings, she found a prescription with only a few pills missing, and realized that Andy had not been fully committed to fighting the symptoms of PTSD.

Jacquie’s pursuit of her degree became a positive outlet for her grief, and the nursing program allowed for flexibility in her assignments and project work. Jacquie was encouraged to use her assignments to tell her story and help her through her journey. It created the perfect space for Jacquie.“I did more healing the last semester of school than the previous two years,” she said.
“I dove into the root causes (of suicide, depression) and what I could do to move on and help others, despite what I had gone through.”

Sharing her story

Jacquie is now able to share her story and encourage other military veterans to look for, and act on, the signs and struggles that come with PTSD. Jacquie graduated in December of 2016. She now works at Aspirus Hospital in Wausau on the MAP (Medical Adolescents and Pediatrics) unit. Creating awareness about PTSD and suicide prevention continues to be her passion. She is involved with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) organization and will begin as a volunteer for the Crisis Text Line — a growing text support system for anyone in crisis. With family her main focus, she continues to demonstrate to her children that awareness is critical, talking about suicide is okay, and that nurses need to have a knowledgeable and complete understanding of the person — not just the medical diagnosis.

By speaking boldly and courageously about the circumstances regarding her husband’s death, Jacquie is raising awareness for those suffering from PTSD. Her hope is to spread the word so fewer families lose loved ones.

–Story by Kristin Bouchard ’93


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