From Math Teacher to Nurse

May 14, 2013
Penina Kiguha

Penina Kiguha grew up in Tanzania, Africa and came to America when she was 23 years old. Her father, a university professor, encouraged her to get a college degree and go to America. Earning  a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, she followed his advice.

“I came to the U.S. because I wanted changes in my life,” she said.

Kiguha taught high school mathematics in Milwaukee, Wis., until that job was eliminated. Forced to think about other careers her thoughts returned to 2005 when her brother died of kidney disease.

“He was on dialysis,” Kiguha said. “I spent a lot of time with him and the nurses who took care of him. They were very caring.”

These and other life changes brought her to MNU’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing program (ABSN).

“I feel like nurses make a difference in people’s lives, and not just medically, but holistically with the emotional, physical and spiritual aspect,” she says. “I feel so good when I can help someone and I would like to do that as a nurse.”

Researching nursing programs all over the U.S. that appealed to second-career adults, including online programs, she decided the MNU program was the best opportunity. So now at age 38, and with a six year old daughter, Kiguha is in the challenging ABSN program that combines studies and clinical work to earn a nursing degree in one year.

As a single mother from Africa starting a new career, she is among MNU’s many pioneers. “It’s not easy being a single mother and being in this nursing program,” she adds. “There is no time for anything else,” she said.

Her mother came from Africa to help care for her daughter, so that provides a great help, she said.

Kiguha is not sure yet which nursing specialty she wants to pursue. “When I started in this program I was thinking about pediatrics, but I am not sure now. There are so many possibilities.”

Kiguha is one of ten MNU accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing (ABSN) students this year to receive the $10,000 in a New Career in Nursing (NCIN) scholarship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) at MNU. The scholarship exists to address the nationwide nursing shortage and promote diversity within the field.  “That scholarship has been very helpful,” she said.

The funding supports students in the program who are traditionally underrepresented in the field of nursing. The NCIN Scholarship Program was launched in 2008 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to address the national nursing shortage, develop a diverse professional nursing workforce, and fuel the pipeline of nurse faculty and leaders.

For more information on MNU nursing programs, visit www.mnu.edu/nursing. For information about RWJF-NCIN scholarships, see www.newcareersinnursing.org.