CNL student Sarah Russell-Hunter
Russell-Hunter, a lifelong violinist, studied kinesiology, became a CNA, cared for nursing home residents, and hopes to weave music info her care.

Meet Sarah.

Violinist since age six, former Front Porch jammer, and member of the Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra. A Clinical Nurse Leader master’s student, Arlington, VA, native, and a certified nursing assistant. Lizard mom to leopard gecko “Felix,” a newbie crocheter, Suzuki method violin instructor, and uber fan of film scores (“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a current favorite).

Loves professors Ashley Apple (“She’s taught me so much about what nurse advocacy looks like on the ground”) and Beth Epstein (“I could feel her excitement about not only pharmacological therapies, but also the ethics and the social issues underlying them”). Hopes to ultimately work with older adults living in a senior living facility offering intergenerational care.


“I was in a high school club that played music in senior living communities—which was great because I felt less nervous about performing and had an appreciative audience. But I also got the sense that these homes had something missing. Once I got a job as a CNA as an undergraduate, I realized it: these people don’t feel like they have a purpose. I got the sense they were forgotten about in a lot of ways.

“The CNA really helped me get a foot in the door for nursing related experiences. I worked with a wound care nurse, Casper, and his love for helping people was infectious. There’s creativity in music, which I already knew, but I saw through him that there could be creativity in nursing as well.”


“The program equips you with knowledge that you need to not only understand something but to be able to explain it to someone else, too. They’re teaching us how to think like someone who is asked those questions and like a unit leader who is being asked to improve those outcomes measures. They’re encouraging us to think outside the box.”

“I feel really energized. Also, supported, too, because as soon as I ask a question, I learn things related to that question. I feel like whenever I’m with a group of CNL students there’s such a mutual curiosity we bring out of each other, and we make one another feel comfortable asking all these questions.”


“It’s a pipe dream, but something that involves reminiscence therapy, bringing in things that remind older adults of who they are and where they’ve come from. I think I’ll be able to use music in a space like that. It doesn’t need to be limited to music, either, just creating a space where people in the last phase of their lives can use creativity to create community and a sense of purpose.”

“I know for me that playing the violin will probably be the last thing, once my words are gone, I’ll be able to do. I really want to give them an environment that’s conducive to them feeling personal and loved and all of those good things.”


“ENSEMBLE. I feel like there’s a lot of communication and mutual understanding that’s necessary in music when you’re creating something as a group. Nursing isn’t any different; we all have to be on the same page. Including patients, including family, about what’s about to happen that will make it easier for everyone involved.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met such a dynamic and energized group of people [as my CNL cohort]. We really support each other. I feel lucky to get to do music stuff and get this incredible nursing program. There’s so much opportunity and so many exposures built in. I feel really lucky.”