Caleb Foy, MSN ’23, was nearly finished with a comprehensive physical assessment of his wife, Gracie, when something happened.
Foy is a student in the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program. The head-to-toe assessment of his wife represented one of Foy’s final assignments in one of his final courses of the graduate-level nursing program, prior to the start of his clinical role courses. On top of that, Foy’s assessment was being video-recorded on his smart phone.
He had no choice. Foy had to continue. He had to push through what he called “a distraction”—one wearing a white tank top and mimicking his every move. The distraction was his son, Caleb Jr.
“I’ve been a nurse for 10 years. I’ve worked in community mental health for 16 years. With that experience, and as a future nurse practitioner, you grow accustomed to dealing with distractions and blocking them out,” the Philadelphia native said, with a slight laugh. “Honestly, I had to go back to the video and watch it later to see what actually happened.”
Three-year-old Caleb Jr. walked into the room about 35 minutes into his father’s 40-minute assessment. When Caleb grabbed a reflex hammer and administered taps to his wife’s left elbow, Caleb Jr. followed suit using implements he had pulled from his toy medical set. Same with the tests administered on the inside of Gracie’s wrists and right arm. Then, Dad turned his attention to the knees, and Caleb Jr., while wearing a plastic blue and yellow stethoscope, did the same—all while splaying across his mother’s legs. Meanwhile, Gracie did all she could to avoid breaking into laughter.
Caleb Jr.’s cameo brought a smile to the face of program director Patricia Dillon, Ph.D., RN, who was tasked with reviewing and evaluating each student’s assessment.
“I was watching Caleb’s video and I smiled and thought, ‘This is a first. It’s not every day you see something like this,’” said Dillon, chair of La Salle’s graduate nursing programs. “Caleb Jr. couldn’t have had a better role model.”
In La Salle’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, Foy is learning how to provide mental health services for patients at every turn, from diagnosis and education, to prevention and treatment of acute and chronic mental illness.
Foy’s career in nursing spans clinical care, as well as leadership and directorial roles. His work in La Salle’s program “legitimizes, in an academic sense, what I’ve been seeing and doing professionally for so many years,” Foy said. Additionally, he said, the pandemic has added to the burden felt by him and other nursing professionals.
“COVID-19 has compounded the stress and exhaustion of our work and, as a result, so many are leaving the field,” Foy said. “It’s up to the next generation to carry the torch. Nursing is my lifelong passion. Other than emergency services, like police and fire, there’s no other position where you see people at their possibly lowest moment and yet you have an opportunity to create an immediate impact in a positive way.”
Three clinical courses remain for Foy before he earns his graduate PMHNP degree in August 2023. Upon graduating, he and his wife—a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist—plan to expand upon the health and wellness business they launched in 2020, A Listening Ear Wellness Center, where they take a client-centered approach to treatment. Their goal is to manage and operate an extensive center that offers traditional care, like talk therapy and medication management, and alternative methods, including meditation, body work and massages, float pods, and energy therapy.
“Trauma takes on many forms,” Foy said, “so our plan for the center would include infrared saunas, float pods, and other nonstandard modalities to treat the trauma that is present in our communities.”
“I was watching Caleb’s video and I smiled and thought, ‘This is a first. It’s not every day you see something like this.’ Caleb Jr. couldn’t have had a better role model.”
—Patricia Dillon, Ph.D., RN
Chair of La Salle’s graduate nursing programs
“Trauma takes on many forms,” Foy said. “We understand that the first step to healing is through psychoeducation. Individuals need to understand the what’s and whys of what their mind and body is experiencing and how connected the two are, and how their environment plays a part in mental and physical health and how they are able to get ‘unstuck’ and become their best selves and live their life to the fullest.”
He continued: “My wife and I both started our journey in the medical field determined to combat the racial and health inequalities in African-American communities. The future center will be located in the Philadelphia area, my wife and I want to ensure that our communities to be accessible to all and to ensure treatment opportunity for people of color.”
—Christopher A. Vito