A varied career, a childhood in India spent encountering different cultures, and a master’s degree in biotechnology are just some of the life experiences and accomplishments that make Binny Varghese unique and interesting. This native of India is now a nursing student in MNU’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, a one-year program designed for students who have completed a degree in another field and want to practice nursing.
This career move has its roots in Varghese’s childhood and young adult years as he moved around India with his mother, a military nurse. Encountering many cultures and varied economic conditions gave him compassion for the underprivileged. Working with people in need helped him mature, and as he says, “I gained a passion to serve others.”
Although drawn to the field of nursing, Varghese says there is little opportunity for male nurses in India, so he earned a bachelor’s degree in human genetics. Research opportunities are plentiful in genetics, and Varghese enjoyed laboratory work completing a master’s degree in biotechnology. While teaching undergraduate courses at St. George College in Bangalore, India, he met nursing students who talked about their patient and clinical experiences, keeping the idea of a nursing career alive in the back of his mind.
Eventually Varghese had the opportunity to research for Abexome Biosciences, a contract research facility in life sciences research and development. Working on projects to develop diagnostic kits for hospitals, Varghese was able to combine his love for research with patient interaction.
The Indian tradition of an arranged marriage brought Varghese to the US in 2009. Although they emailed and eventually met prior to their wedding, Varghese and his wife Betty, a respiratory therapist at St. Luke’s South Hospital, did not know each other long before they married. Marrying in India, Varghese had to wait five months to be approved to join Betty in the US.
Thinking he would continue working in the R&D industry, he landed a job in the physiology department at the University of Kansas Medical School. Again he found himself in a hospital setting. A self-described strong Christian, Varghese felt God’s urging to “Do more in the medical field.”
“When God wants you to do something better, he shows you the way,” he asserts.
So Varghese explored nursing education and found MNU among the choices.
“I felt God wanted me to learn from a Christian background,” he says. “I was looking for a program that would accept my previous courses when I found the ABSN program.”
The accelerated program is specifically designed for people who already have a bachelor’s degree or are close to completing one, but want to change careers and become a nurse.
The next obstacle would be the cost of education. Varghese was excited to learn that MNU is one of about 50 US institutions with grant funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing Scholarship. Created to help alleviate the nursing shortage and increase the diversity of nursing professionals, the scholarship requires the recipient be part of a traditionally underrepresented population in nursing. Varghese’s gender, ethnicity and previous career experience helped him qualify. The scholarship makes his education more affordable.
“The RWJF-NCIN help is a big relief,” he says. “I never thought I’d get the scholarship. It’s very competitive. I take it as a sign that God wants me to do this.”
A supportive family is key to Varghese’s success in the ABSN program. Fortunately his wife and extended family encourage him to stay focused.
“It’s so accelerated,” he says. “Much more so than taking a short-term class in the summer. No TV, no outside activities, no job. I just have to say no for one year. You must dedicate yourself because you are learning two to three years material in one year.”
While the acceleration of the program is challenging, Varghese says he and his classmates think it is worth it to be able to go into a nursing career in just one year.
Though fast-paced, confirmation of the quality of education was received when 100% of the 2011 ABSN graduates passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses on their first attempt. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), which administers the test, about 88 percent of U.S. educated bachelor’s-prepared nursing graduates passed the test on their first attempt in 2011. Passing the NCLEX-RN is required to be a practicing nurse.
Varghese thinks he will be well prepared for his new career.
“The professors are the best in their subjects,” he states. They share stories from their nursing careers, including ministering to patient’s spiritual side. Their life and work experience will help us in our jobs and we get a lot of moral support from them because of their Christian values.”