A Primate Researcher Follows the Call

victoria horner"I love working with chimps, and I love being a bedside nurse. You need to use a lot of intuition and empathy to work in both environments."—Victoria Horner



From Clinic to Camp

A Primate Researcher Follows the Call

Legal Eagle for Children

Health Care and the Bottom Line

Triple Skills, Triple Rewards

40 Years of Global Health Action

Moving Farther Down the Wicket

Just a few years ago, Victoria Horner's family and friends didn't mince words when she told them she would be attending nursing school.

You're totally insane. Why would you want to go back to school? That's crazy, they said.

After all, the Scotland native had already earned a PhD and spent years researching chimpanzees, first in Uganda and most recently at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, where she worked with the highly esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal.

Horner hadn't fallen out of love with her chimp research, she told her friends. But she was ready to pursue her longtime dream of nursing.

"I had been interested in nursing since I was a little girl," says Horner 11N PhD. She was equally drawn to working with chimpanzees and eventually moved to Atlanta in 2003 for a position at Emory and Yerkes. "The nursing bug was always there," she adds.

In Atlanta, she discovered that American nurses were well respected. Finally, she says, "I just decided I'm going to do it. I'm going to go back to school and become a nurse."

It didn't hurt that Emory had a top-notch nursing program and that as a current employee she could qualify for the courtesy scholarship program. Her experience at the School of Nursing affirmed her decision.

"I was more impressed with nursing than I thought I was going to be, and I had pretty high expectations," she says. "I didn't realize how sophisticated nursing is."

From there, a focus on oncology seemed like a good match, in part because of the rapidly changing protocols based on new research. Says Horner, "It seemed like a really good fit for me."

These days Horner splits her week between Yerkes and her oncology patients at Emory University Hospital. The skills she honed as a primate researcher now help her quickly understand and integrate new oncology protocols and research.

"I love working with chimps, and I love being a bedside nurse," she says. "You need to use a lot of intuition and empathy to work in both environments."

Most of Horner's nursing colleagues know little if anything about her other life as a Yerkes postdoctoral fellow at a prestigious lab. And that's fine with her.

"I work with nurses who are just amazing," she says. "We all bring our own personal experience into our jobs. Mine just happens to be chimpanzees."—DG

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Cover of Emory Nursing Magazine