RWJF Scholarship Profiles
Giang Vu, 2012 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
It is no surprise that Giang Vu decided to become a nurse. She comes from a family that has made health care its business. Among her first cousins alone, there are 10 physician and dentists. Other family members work in health care, and now Vu is in MNU’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program (ABSN).
The opportunity to provide healing, education and companionship to patients is what drew Vu to nursing as a career. Starting out at the University of Kansas Vu initially followed the family career path and sought a pre-med degree in biology. During her junior year she says she realized her “heart wasn’t in it,” but was too far along in her major to change.
After college Vu became a dental assistant in a pediatric dental practice, thinking that dental school was an option.
“I fell in love with the patient interactions and performing patient education,” she said.
Ultimately she realized that a nursing career held the greatest appeal.
“Nursing will allow me to have the same patient interaction and education that I found appealing in dental assisting,” she says. It provides the holistic approach to serving others.”
Opportunities for graduate level education and career growth in nursing was also a factor in her choice.
“I can get my master’s or doctorate in nursing and go into many different fields,” she states. “The higher and varied levels of education were what clinched the deal for me.”
Vu is able to fund her nursing education in large part because she was awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholarship at MNU. One of 52 U.S. institutions granted the special scholarship funding; MNU is able to help students from demographic backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in nursing.
Vu’s future goals include medical missions work. Most of her family members went on medical missions to Third World countries early in their careers. Now they are settled with families and successful practices.
“I am hoping to someday soon gather all my family, health care professionals and all, to revive [our] medical missions again.”
The daughter and granddaughter of Vietnam War refugees who escaped to the U.S. in 1975, Vu says Vietnam is a dream destination for her mission work.
“I would love to go to Vietnam, to the villages where my parents grew up, and provide whatever care I can with my BSN,” she asserts. “The villages are still very poor and have limited access to health care. That is my ultimate dream as to what I will do with my BSN.”
A nursing career and mission travel abroad is not far off for Vu since the ABSN program only takes one year to complete. Most students in the program, like Vu, already have a bachelor’s degree or are close to completing one when they enroll. Studies are intense as students take up to 24 credit hours in each of three semesters during the year, and are in classes or labs for 26 to 36 hours per week. Students also spend five or more hours in study per day in addition to classes and labs. But Vu says that is all to be expected.
“Those who enroll in such a program should be focused and mature,” she asserts. “There is a lot of information to learn in a shorter amount of time than traditional nursing programs, and the information learned is going to help save lives.”
Binny Varghese, 2012 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
A Second Career in Nursing Just Next Step of the Journey for MNU Student
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.Binny-V-for-Web
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.”
Micahel Vu, 2011 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
From Refugee to Nursing Student
In 1980 Michael Vu escaped Saigon, Vietnam in a wooden fishing boat with three of his ten siblings. The so-called boat people faced danger and the risk of imprisonment if caught, but found the opportunity to escape religious, social and economic oppression irresistible. Landing in one of several Southeast Asian refugee camps established for those fleeing the country, the siblings continued to dream of a new start in the U.S.
After six months in the camps Catholic Social Services found a sponsor for the Vu family in the U.S. As a 14-year-old refugee, Michael had a new language and culture to learn as he traversed the uncertain waters of American high school. Learning English mostly on his own, Michael worked hard and succeeded.
Michael’s elementary-school educated parents “instilled strong Christian ethics and morals in their ten children and planted a dream for freedom and a better life in the promise of America,” he says.
They knew their children would need advanced education in the U.S. and all four have succeeded. Two are doctors, one is a laboratory technician and Michael, who became a U.S. citizen in 1989, already holds a BS in Organismal Biology from the University of Kansas. He has been a business owner, an electronics technician, and a computer technician in his varied career. Throughout his amazing experiences some things have remained constant in Michael’s life. He has always enjoyed working with people and healthcare has always been an interest. In fact he says he considered nursing school in the late 90’s but was discouraged by the lack of males in the field at the time.
After a failed business partnership in 2009, Michael was looking for a new challenge with a more certain employment future. His three brothers encouraged him to consider nursing again.
“They knew my personality would lend itself to being a good nurse,” he said. “It’s an intellectually demanding field and at the same time requires empathy and the desire to give true service to other human beings,” he states.
Now in his 40’s, the husband and father of two is reinventing his career through the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) Program at MidAmerica Nazarene University, with the help of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Careers in Nursing Scholarship (NCIN).
Michael’s financial situation after closing his business made attending college again a difficult challenge. Then he heard about MNU’s partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. One of 52 U.S. institutions granted the special scholarship funding; MNU is able to help 10 students this year from demographic backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in nursing. Not only did the scholarship help Michael financially, it also solidified his decision to attend MNU.
“I knew UMKC and KU had BSN programs, but they don’t have the RWJF association,” he asserts. “It’s not easy to get. You have to be a prestigious school. I’m blessed to receive the scholarship.”
The hardships of his early years have strengthened his character, resilience and passion which he thinks will also benefit him as a nurse.
“These life lessons gave me a true appreciation of life, and a desire to give back to a country that has given me so much,” he asserts. “Nursing is a noble profession because not only are you caring for people when they are really sick, but you are helping to restore their dignity while meeting a basic human need.”
Michael says his current clinical rotation in the ABSN program is in a local hospital where he recently followed a patient from pre-op through discharge. After his final clinical rotation, he will complete an internship — a 168-hour, 7-week, intensive clinical experience at a local hospital — prior to completing his BSN.
“I don’t know what direction I am heading in nursing yet,” he says. “Good nurses are needed in all areas of nursing and I just want to be a good nurse.”
While there’s pressure in an accelerated nursing program, Michael says the professors at MNU work together to schedule assignments so that if there’s a test in one class, the other professors try not to schedule tests at the same time.
“It’s challenging, hard work, but my experience at MNU has been wonderful,” he says. “I tell everyone about MNU. They are devoted to helping students succeed.”
When reflecting on his journey from Vietnam refugee to U.S. citizen and nursing student, Michael says he feels humbled and blessed.
“The RWJF scholarship is a tremendous benefit in the pursuit of my dream of becoming a dedicated and compassionate nurse,” he says. “This is one way I can give back to this great country.”
Raman Kaur, 2011 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing student Raman Kaur, is a recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program at MidAmerica Nazarene University. As a volunteer with urban kids at Crosspoint Ministries in Kansas City, Raman got in touch with her dream of being a pediatric nurse.
“It helped me remember why I’m doing this,” she says. “We tried to give them something wholesome to do on a Friday night so they felt loved and cared for.”
Whether working as a nanny for a family in Johnson County, her job during her first college degree, or hanging with kids in an urban setting, Raman has always been adaptable to new environments and different cultures. Having lived in India, New York and now Kansas, she says she’s used to change and enjoys different cultures.
“I have a passion for it,” she adds. “My dream job is to be a nurse practitioner in an orphanage in Thailand that I visited on a mission trip. It’s one of those places where you just know you are going to go back someday.”
India is another option she and husband Nick Haus will consider since his goal is to teach overseas. Perhaps that’s one reason they met and married while both were students at MNU. He majored in international business. She majored in biology and chemistry. After graduation, deciding she wanted a career in pediatric healthcare, Raman actually waited a year for MNU to start the ABSN program.
“I really loved MNU and I wanted to stay here,” she says. “I had friends who went to other schools but I knew I wanted to stay in this environment. Here we pray before class. The profs teach us how to care for people from a spiritual perspective as well as physical.
”Her previous science background is also helpful in the ABSN program because she says she knows how to study for courses with scientific content.
“It’s not two hours studying for a test, it’s like twelve. There’s so much more information and details than other subjects.”
In class three days a week, clinicals two days a week, and studying an average of five hours a day, Raman says the program is intense, but because it’s just one year, it is doable.
“Anyone can do this as long as they are disciplined,” she asserts. “But first make sure you really want to be a nurse. My desire to be in this field keeps me going. The passion keeps me motivated.”
Jeyla Sneed, 2011 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
Though she practiced as a licensed psychologist in Brazil, Jeyla Sneed found she could not practice in the U.S. without a doctorate. The wife, and mother of a two-year-old, weighed her busy life-style against her educational options, wanting to be as efficient as possible in the time her studies would take her away from family.
“I wanted to be sure I’d have a job when I was done,” Jeyla remarked.
Knowing about the U.S. shortage of nurses and believing her background in psychology would make her even more valuable, she determined that healthcare would be a good fit.
“I like how big the scope of nursing is,” Jeyla says. “You have to consider the patient’s needs, their family’s needs and then there are one’s co-workers and the community. I didn’t know nurses had so much responsibility, and at the same time I’ve very excited that I’m going into a profession without limits.”
Deciding that the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at MidAmerica Nazarene University would give her the flexibility she needed, Jeyla dove into the program enthusiastically. While she needed some prerequisites to qualify, anatomy for example, Jeyla has found that her previous profession indeed complements her nursing studies.
“The mind, soul and body are all involved in nursing,” she says.
Although she loves it, the program is quite intense as she works to complete 55 hours in one year, having completed part of the more than 60 required hours before she entered.
“The professors here really care about the student,” she says. “They want us to succeed. I can’t imagine being in a program like this with professors who want to weed you out.”
Now in clinical training, Jeyla has learned to organize her time to stay on top of studies.
“The key to surviving this program is to balance study and family. Whatever I am doing, I focus on that and don’t take anything else in.”
About succeeding in her field, Jeyla is optimistic. Her mentor (each RWJF student is assigned one) Lauren Loyd of Olathe Medical Center’s nursing education, offers advice and support from her 7 years in nursing.
“We can talk about everything, like how to deal with conflicts,” Jeyla asserts. “Because healthcare is life and death and that comes with a lot of emotion. Laurie’s a good resource. It’s nice to have someone to guide me.”
Jeyla is able to pursue her career in nursing, in part, due to the RWJF scholarship she received at MNU.
Patrick Wambugu, 2011 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
From living in a house constructed of mud, twigs and branches, to earning an economics degree from the University of Kansas, the path to becoming a nursing student at MNU has been anything but the norm for Patrick Wambugu. Now in MNU’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, Patrick credits his parents with making education a priority for him today.
“It was not just encouraged for me to go to college,” he says. “It was a must.”
As a young boy of five, Patrick remembers his mother walking hours to work in her job as a teacher in Kenya.
“She’d leave at 5 a.m. and come back at 8 p.m. and still have to care for us,” he says.
The oldest of three children, Patrick also remembers the dedication of his father, who worked in a big city far enough away that the family would go two to three months without seeing him.
Securing a better job when Patrick was ten, his father was able to send him to private school and provide tutoring so he could succeed.
“My parents made big sacrifices for me to be educated,” he added.
At the age of 18, he found his way to the U.S. Struggling in low-paying jobs while he attended school; he took a year off to save for college. Nevertheless he completed his economics degree in less than four years
While in a financial services career at State Street, Patrick was considering law school when he was laid off due to the recession. The search for a stable career led to healthcare and MNU.
Throughout his time in the U.S. his mother had often relayed stories of need from friends in their Kenyan village. Whether it was for basics such as food and water or a new church to be built, Patrick often sent money back home to provide for those needs.
Deciding after his lay off to pursue a nursing degree, Patrick kept philanthropy in mind.
“I’ll have the skill set to make a bigger impact in their lives [as a nurse,]” he says. “I’ll have more resources to do that.”
Now working weekends as a psychology technician at Truman Medical Center, Patrick balances job responsibilities with weekday courses and clinicals in the accelerated BSN program. His patients at TMC suffer from drug addiction, behavioral issues and abuse. Patrick says its “one of the hardest jobs you can do.”
“I love it and I’m very good at it,” he adds. “I’m a people person and I like to think I have a big heart. That’s the part I enjoy most.”
Hoping to combine his psychology technician experience with nursing, he would love to continue serving with the team at TMC after graduation. Never resting, Patrick is already entertaining the idea of obtaining an MBA or Master of Healthcare Administration later.
So how does he juggle work and an accelerated program while keeping his grades high?
“Where I come from it’s so competitive,” he asserts. “You are tested and you earn a national rank that determines if you get to go on. You miss opportunities if you don’t pass one test. You must excel in school or you have to stop … and that’s not an option for me.”
Patrick calls his road to MNU a “faith thing.” While applying for nursing programs he learned about the ABSN program at MNU. Not knowing how he would afford it, he applied on faith, and then learned he could apply for the $10,000 Robert Wood Johnson New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholarship. At the same time his mother called with a new need in Kenya. A group of friends was fundraising to build a new church. Although he needed every dime he had saved for school, Patrick prayed about the fundraiser, eventually deciding to send some of his hard-earned paycheck back home.
On the same day his Kenyan brothers and sisters were rejoicing that they had met their goal, Patrick received a letter from MNU awarding him the NCIN scholarship.
“My coming to this school was, I think, divine,” Patrick beams. “Even when I was applying I had no clue how I was going to pay.”
Patrick hopes to join the TMC psych unit full time after graduation in 2012 and says his coworkers and supervisor are highly supportive of his efforts.
“They can’t wait for me to finish and be a part of their team.”