Alumni Profile: Valerie Assey

Beth Khan
July 09, 2021
Valerie Assey

In 1991, Valerie Assey, R.N., MSN '86, began working in MUSC's Infectious Diseases Division to help build an HIV/AIDS clinic for a population that did not have a lot of support 30 years ago. According to Assey, the Ryan White Clinic saw 50 patients in the first year it was open. Today, the clinic follows more than 1,300 patients. "There wasn't any specialized care in the Charleston area at that time," Assey said. "It's been a joy to see these patients have a place to come for quality care and that we've been able to secure grant funding to continue to expand medical and support services for the past 30 years."

Because of Assey's experience as a nurse administrator in the MUSC Division of Infectious Diseases, she has seen firsthand the importance of palliative care nurses and the enormous role they play in their patient's well-being. She recently hosted a College of Nursing Alumni reception in her home to highlight the importance of palliative care and the exciting work the college is doing to train nurses in this area. Recently, Assey shared some of her thoughts on palliative care.

What role do you feel palliative care plays in infectious diseases?

I think for any specialty dealing with serious illnesses and/or symptoms that impact quality of life, palliative care should be part of that conversation with the patient. It is another resource to help our patients navigate their best health.

Providing care to patients at end-of-life is emotionally challenging. Given your experience, how can we best prepare students to cope and have difficult discussions with families?

I think bedside nursing is crucial to gaining the necessary skills to help patients and families during this difficult time. When I was a first-year nursing student, my nursing instructor advised me that to be ready for my role as a nurse; I needed to work whenever possible with patients. Working every weekend as a student nurse with the many nurses who mentored me served as an invaluable experience. I would still recommend the same today in whatever your field of interest.

What advice would you give a student contemplating going into palliative care?

Knowing your personality type and having a passion for palliative care nursing is a good start.

How have you used your training and education from the MUSC College of Nursing to do good in the world?

During my master's program, HIV/AIDS became my calling. I worked diligently with this population to improve providing care locally. Today, we have a program at MUSC that meets the highest standards of care. We have come a long way since 1991!