Ryan White Voices
“Nursing can be so mired down by tradition about career steps and paying your dues. I’m a perfect example that you can be successful otherwise.”
F. Patrick Robinson
I didn't know what a T-cell was and they offered me the job.
F. Patrick Robinson didn’t know what a T-cell was when he became Patient Care Coordinator in 1992 at Wishard Memorial Hospital, part of Indiana University Medical Center. He wasn’t really qualified for the job – or so he thought – but he quickly became responsible for the needs of 500 HIV/AIDS patients.
Nearly twenty years later, Patrick has helped set the standard for AIDS nursing care in the U.S. Currently Dean at Chamberlain College of Nursing in Chicago, Patrick’s distinguished career has included serving as President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC); a faculty member in the Department of Medical/Surgical Nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago; a researcher on lipodystrophy syndrome; and a mentor to nursing students.
Patrick’s atypical job path has given him numerous opportunities to take on unique challenges, fueling his enthusiasm to learn what he doesn’t already know. A self-described renegade, he admits he wouldn’t be where he is if there was a specific timeline he had to follow. “Nursing can be so mired down by tradition about career steps and paying your dues,” Patrick says. “I’m a perfect example that you can be successful otherwise.”
Patrick didn’t recognize the signs growing up, but he seemed compelled to be in nursing. His father was a neurologist in private practice, and his mother, a nurse, helped run the office. Accustomed to his parents talking about patient cases at the dinner table, he learned early on about treatment and care. “It was an amazing partnership between the two of them,” says Patrick. He recalls going on rounds with his father at the clinic and sitting at the nurses’ stations when he was young.
“Hospitals were never scary for me; in fact, I really liked the team environment, and nurses are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” Patrick explains.
To make extra money in high school, Patrick worked in a nursing home taking care of elderly ladies. “I was a 17-year-old kid elbow deep in shit,” he says. “But that’s someone’s mother, wife, sister. You don’t dehumanize patients, which can be hard if you’re wiping their behind.”
Patrick was doing things that most teenagers wouldn’t dare, but to him, he was just doing his job. He originally did not plan to go into the sciences after high school, but instead was determined to have an acting career. “I realized I didn’t have any talent,” Patrick says with a laugh. He didn’t think he had any talent in the sciences either, but decided to try. To no one’s surprise except his own, he set the curve and graduated with a B.N. with distinction from Indiana University.