Wild Geese: ‘In the US, there’s an attitude of ‘go for it’
From Dublin, Dolores Van Bourgondien found a rewarding nursing career in Florida
Born in Raheny, Dublin, Dolores Van Bourgondien was only a child when her father moved the family to Zambia in 1975. She returned to finish her education as a boarder at Mount Sackville and was awarded a degree in English and Psychology from UCD in 1986.
“In June 1986, I left Ireland for good. My father felt that, with the economic climate at the time, there was no way all five of his children would get jobs in Ireland. He left a job as managing director at Airmotive Ireland to run an aircraft parts and engines sales business in the US.
“In order for me to enter the US, as I was over 21, I became a student and did an MA in English Literature at Hofstra University on Long Island.”
While studying, Van Bourgondien worked part time in the aircraft business doing sales and marketing. “As luck would have it Homeland Security came knocking on my door when I graduated and I had to leave the US, but the aircraft company offered me a job in the UK.”
For the next three years Van Bourgondien worked in the UK but, after winning a lottery visa in 1991, she returned to Florida and continued working in marketing and sales in the aviation business.
When her father died in 1999, one of the last things he said was: “I have no regrets.”
This prompted Van Bourgondien to go back to school as she had always wanted to be a nurse.
“As soon as I could, I left a high-paying job in aviation, with a self-employed husband and two children and went back to school,” she says.
Graduating as a registered nurse in 2005, she worked as an emergency room and trauma nurse in an inner city hospital in downtown Fort Lauderdale, otherwise known as a gun, knife and drug club! While nursing full time, she obtained a masters in nursing in 2013.
She is now an advanced practice nurse practitioner acute care/internal medicine’ – an ARNP – and her patient population is psychiatric.
“I work at most psychiatric facilities from Palm Beach County to north Miami. Unfortunately these days, we are dealing with a drug addiction crisis fuelled by out of control opiate addiction. Our patients are also ravaged by synthetic drugs which are cheap and imported into the US, mainly from China.
“Drugs such as Flakka and Mollys are common place and we deal with the medical problems associated with these drugs. In addition, there is a health care crisis which is compounded in those with mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety and depression.”
As an ARNP, Van Bourgondien also completed training in administering botox and fillers and has been working on setting up a health and wellness practice with a concentration on anti-aging.
Van Bourgondien’s husband, Mark owns a gym, Synergy Fitness Boca and has a very successful weight loss program.
As far as Van Bourgondien is aware, the position of ARNP, with its high level of autonomy that attending physicians give her in the US, is not replicated in Ireland.
“Nurse practitioners are valued here by physicians, and our opinions, especially our medical opinions and decisions, are trusted and respected. Also I think that, in the US, there is an attitude of ‘go for it’. I feel sometimes in Ireland that you are often talked out of why you can’t do something.”
As for quality of life in Florida, she is emphatic.
“I’m going to go out on a limb”, she says. “I love the US. This country has been good to me, given me opportunities in varying fields and it has rewarded me for my hard work. In terms of a social life I have been able to socialise all the time with co-workers and the families of the kids my children went to school with and more. You do have to put yourself out there though and take the lead in trying to meet new people and friends.”
To the new generation of emigrants, Van Bourgondien says: “The US still values brains, smarts, innovation, and it will seek out those types of employees/emigrants. Ireland has an extremely well-educated population, great universities and I think we also have a great work ethic and eagerness to do well.
“There will always be room in the US for those types of emigrants. The question is, though, under the current administration and what’s being portrayed worldwide, will emigrants still want to come here?”
Van Bourgondien has exploited professional networking bodies but not in an area where expat groups have banded together. Professional groups such as the Trauma Nurses and Emergency Nurses Association have been more beneficial.
“There are no comparisons to Ireland here which does make me homesick. You have to appreciate the weather, the outdoor lifestyle, palm trees etc. but I do miss a windy day in Sutton or a walk around Howth summit.”
She is currently working on a complete online health, wellness and anti-aging programme in conjunction with Synergy Fitness Boca (Her husband’s gym).
“I would love to be able to split my time between Florida, Ireland and Mark’s homeland, The Netherlands in the future.”
Picture Credit: Devon McManama at