Aaron Kemmling, 2014 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
From Finance to Nursing—Student Finds Purpose
By Melinda (Ablard ’90) Smith
Switching from career plans in finance to nursing might seem like a big leap for some—but not for Aaron Kemmling.
He has always wanted to work in the medical field but didn’t think he was smart enough.
“Math came easy to me so a finance degree seemed to make sense,” says Kemmling, of Olathe. “Toward the end of my degree, my dream of being in healthcare became more and more pressing on me. I felt a need to serve others.”
So although he finished the finance degree, he bypassed jobs in that field, instead earning a paramedic license. He worked on ambulances the next three years, first in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and then in rural Miami County, Kan.
During his last year as a paramedic in Miami County, Kemmling was promoted to lieutenant and supervised employees while still fulfilling his job on the road. He also set up a community CPR training program, and is still a licensed Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) instructor.
“My chief saw the passion I had to equip members of the community with the skills to perform CPR,” Kemmling says. “He put me in charge of a project to increase the awareness of the need for bystander CPR.”
The project was a success, but Kemmling’s experience as a paramedic in the Kansas City area produced more than a new local CPR program; it brought about a life change. It was here that he became a Christian through the mentorship of a close friend and here that he met his wife, Danielle, who is one of his biggest inspirations. It was also here that he decided he wanted to spend more time with patients and sensed God was calling him into nursing.
“Being a nurse provides an open door to show the compassion of Christ to a patient in their time of crisis,” says Kemmling, who is now a student in MNU’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing (ABSN) program. “I cannot think of a better career to incorporate my love for people and my desire to serve the needs of others.”
He also has received a one-time scholarship of $10,000 from MNU’s School of Nursing and Health Science through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: New Careers in Nursing (RWJF NCIN) program. The scholarship is awarded to select ABSN students who are from a population underrepresented in the nursing field, traditionally men and minorities, or who have significant financial need. It is only available in the ABSN program, which gives students the opportunity to finish a nursing degree in one year.
After graduation, Kemmling would like to put his new skills to work in an intensive care unit, specifically a cardiovascular ICU. However, his goal is eventually to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), a plan that further makes him a perfect fit for the NCIN scholarship, which encourages nurses to further their education.
MidAmerica Nazarene University has received the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: New Careers in Nursing (RWJF NCIN) grant the past six years and uses the money to fund Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing scholarships. Over the years, the school has awarded 45 NCIN scholarships. The goal of the RWJF grant is to help alleviate the nursing shortage, to diversify the workplace and to bolster faculty and leadership.
Vanessa Schulte, 2014 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
Going the Distance to Become a Nurse
By Melinda (Ablard ’90) Smith
Vanessa Schulte is a true pioneer.
Not only is the Baldwin City resident from a pioneering family—she is a first-generation American whose parents are from Laos—but also she is the first in her family to complete a bachelor’s degree.
So when Schulte decided to return to college for a nursing degree it was fitting that she would choose the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing (ABSN) program at MidAmerica Nazarene University, home of the Pioneers.
“I believe nurses embody MNU’s mission, the mission to have a ‘pioneering spirit’ by encompassing the drive and passion to move forward through any obstacles we face,” Schulte says. “Nurses live purposefully because they are providing care for those who are sick, in pain or even fighting for their very lives.”
Schulte learned early to embrace that pioneering spirit. Her youth was challenging at times because of what she calls her “culturally and ethnically different” upbringing.
But what Schulte once saw as an obstacle she now views as an advantage as she prepares to enter the nursing field.
“Others did not understand my cultural differences or even why my father and mother were difficult to understand at times,” she says. “I believe that being ethnically different than others allows me to see past a person’s physical appearance and behaviors and delve into their real problems and connect personally with them.”
Schulte’s pioneering spirit also has helped her garner a one-time $10,000 scholarship from MNU’s School of Nursing and Health Science through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: New Careers in Nursing (RWJF NCIN) program. The MNU scholarship is awarded to select applicants who are from a population underrepresented in the nursing field, traditionally men and minorities, or who have significant financial need. It is specifically designated for the ABSN program, which offers students the opportunity to earn a nursing degree in one year.
Although Schulte earlier earned a biology degree from Baker University, she opted to stay home with her then 2-month-old daughter after graduation. When she did enter the job market a few months later and was unable to find work in her field, she took an office job at a car dealership.
But Schulte’s husband, Brett, knew her heart wasn’t in office work. So he encouraged her to go back to school to pursue something more fulfilling. That something was healthcare.
Growing up, Schulte had accompanied her father, who was not proficient in English, to all his doctor’s appointments and had acted as his translator. However, it was her late grandfather who really inspired her to take the path she is now walking.
“My grandfather’s passing from gastric and colon cancer really sparked my urge to care for those who have cancer,” she says of her decision to become an oncology nurse.
When Schulte finishes her training at MNU, she wants not only to work with cancer patients but also to incorporate the latest technology and holistic practices into her nursing.
And she wants to share that pioneering spirit with others.
“I believe that nursing is the most humble of all careers,” Schulte says. “It is a calling by God to follow His way and champion individuals in need. To me, that life means going the distance to touch just one life for the better when they are unable to do so for themselves.”
Paden Shaffer, 2014 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
Sacrifice and Passion Keep Nursing Student on Path
By Melinda (Ablard ’90) Smith
A passion for nursing runs in Paden Shaffer’s family.
His mom and two older sisters are nurses, and now Shaffer, a student in MidAmerica Nazarene University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing (ABSN) program, is on course to join their ranks.
“Witnessing their accomplishments and the enjoyment they receive with their rewarding career choice, I cannot wait to achieve my goal of becoming a nurse also,” says Shaffer, who entered the ABSN program with a degree in biology from Pittsburg State University.
Although he is passionate about pursuing a career in nursing, his decision has not been without sacrifice. During the one-year program at MNU, which meets most week days, Shaffer has been living in the Kansas City area and commuting home to Pittsburg, Kan., on the weekends to spend time with his wife and their young sons.
“It is only a year but just these past few months have seemed longer than a year,” Shaffer says. “I feel I am missing out on a lot with my children only being 2 years old and 8 months old, as they seem to have accomplished different milestones in development every week since I've been gone.”
The loss of income from Shaffer not being able to work during school, and the significant cost of commuting—especially with rising gas prices—has been financially difficult.
Fortunately, he was selected to receive a one-time $10,000 scholarship from MNU through a grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: New Careers in Nursing Program. The scholarship is awarded to select ABSN applicants who are from a population underrepresented in the nursing field, traditionally men and minorities, or who have significant financial need.
The scholarship program also encourages recipients to continue their education beyond the bachelor’s degree, which fits with Shaffer’s plan to move back home after graduating from MNU and apply to Pittsburg State’s Nurse Practitioner (NP) program.
Despite the sacrifices Shaffer and his family have made for him to attend MNU, he keeps looking to his goals, which he fine-tuned while working as a phlebotomy coordinator for Via-Christi Hospital in Pittsburg. There he scheduled staff and oversaw the testing and billing requirements for special tests that the hospital was not equipped to handle on-site.
“I have always known that I wanted to work in healthcare as an NP or physician’s assistant; it just took me a little while to decide which career path I wanted,” Shaffer says. “Working in a hospital fresh out of school really helped me decide which profession I enjoyed the most. During this experience, I found myself wanting to learn and do more to help the patients I served, along with earning better wages for my family.”
Eventually, Shaffer would like to work either in an emergency room setting or in a cardiovascular unit and from there pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
“I believe nursing is a wonderful and rewarding career that needs more people with the desire to heal,” he says. “People build this profession, not the other way.”
Matthew Tucker, 2014 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
Business Analyst Pursues Nursing Career
By Melinda (Ablard ’90) Smith
Matthew Tucker couldn’t have known that a volunteer job at a Kansas City children’s hospital would end up cementing a big change in his future career path—especially since he already had a successful job in the business world.
But what he and others at Children’s Mercy Hospital came to realize was that Tucker had a way with sick children.
“At CMH, I became one of very few males who worked as a Child Life Specialist, and it was quickly being noticed by registered nurses and other staff that I had an innate ability to connect with patients,” he says of his year and a half at the hospital. “During this time, they encouraged me to pursue a career in nursing.”
So he did. And that pursuit led him to MidAmerica Nazarene University, where he is now a student in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing (ABSN) program. Since he already has a bachelor’s degree, through this program, he will be able to earn a nursing degree in just one year. He also has been awarded a one-time $10,000 scholarship by the university through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: New Careers in Nursing (RWJF NCIN) program. The scholarship is awarded to select ABSN applicants who are from a population underrepresented in the nursing field, traditionally men and minorities, or students who have significant financial need.
Tucker has always had a passion to serve others, often volunteering with area organizations that help the homeless and those suffering with AIDS.
And although he has a degree in business management and worked as a business analyst for three years, he says he had yet to discover his life’s calling until his experience at Children’s Mercy. There he saw how few male nurses were on staff and how great an impact the ones who were there had on patients. He wanted to be one of those nurses and make that kind of difference.
“As I saw the positive impact I had with kids, from outpatient surgery cases to kids who would never make it home, I began to feel as though I was living the purposeful life I had set out to attain,” Tucker says.
Some might have discounted Tucker early on. His father grew up in poverty and joined the military, and his mother barely made it through an alternative high school, he says. But he overcame the obstacles to become the first in his family to earn a degree—and now he is working to complete another. And his parents support his decision 100 percent. In fact, Tucker says they are his inspiration, always encouraging him to chase his dreams.
“I have accomplished this not by going on others’ paths, but by creating my own,” Tucker says. “Despite my hardships and financial setbacks, I set out on my own to explore a territory that was unknown to my family.”
Although Tucker doesn’t have specific plans to work at a children’s hospital after he graduates from MNU, his heart and mind are not far from where he began his journey.
“My main focus is critical care,” he says, “but I hope it leads me back to pediatrics.”
Kyle White, 2014 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
Meeting Needs Leads to Career Change
By Melinda (Ablard ’90) Smith
Kyle White is no stranger to situations that push him to perform to the utmost. He has eight years of experience as a mental health counselor, six years of which he spent conducting intensive in-home therapy with families whose children had mental health conditions or who were at risk of losing custody. Thus, when he made the decision to apply for the MNU accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing, the pace of the program was a challenge he expected to enjoy.
“I’m very driven - I want to get (high) straight A’s and really understand the content in detail,” said White. “I’m interested in continuing for an advanced degree and don’t see myself being happy with a role where I'm not pushing the field forward in some way.”
White made the decision to leave the mental health field and pursue nursing when he was working at Truman Medical Center in the Behavioral Health Emergency Department. His job was primarily assessing patients, but he wanted to meet more basic human needs.
“I enjoy people professions and specifically helping people. I also hope to do missions work and believe that nursing is a great gift to others,” White said.
He chose the MNU program both for its location and class availability and for its treatment of faith in the classroom.
“I am a strong Christian and am very pleased that MNU takes Christianity seriously and Jesus is spoken of openly by teachers and students. I also really feel that the teachers are here because they care about us, and I love that faith is shared openly and even integrated at times into the content.”
White is married and has two daughters aged four and two, and is expecting his third child by the end of the year. He said that he always keeps a workable balance between work and family at the forefront of his thoughts.
“But the real challenge is trying to spend enough time to do well in classes, while not going overboard and missing out on time while my children grow up. Especially if I am able to continue to an advanced degree I want to develop a healthy balance,” said White
He is considering continuing to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) or nurse practitioner, carrying either to the doctoral level. He is hoping to start off in an ICU or emergency department after completing the program. He said he enjoys the pace of the work in those environments, much like the pace of the ABSN program.
“It is a challenge and fast paced but I have learned so much. At the beginning of the program I remember telling my wife that I couldn’t even understand the basic terminology in the pharmacology book, let alone recognizing the drugs and their method of action. But I already feel like I understand so much more of how the body works and how to treat illness,” said White.
White 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. 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.
Lauren Goh, 2013 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
Harvard Grad Looks to MNU for Her Career of Choice
Always interested in medicine and passionate about helping others, Lauren Goh knew the medical field was where she belonged. With life experiences shaping her passion, Goh dedicated her studies to learning how to serve others in the medical field. After graduating from Harvard University, she found herself enrolling in MNU’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing program (ABSN) to pave the way for her profession.
In May 2013, Goh completed her undergraduate degree in Biology at Harvard University with the intention of becoming a doctor. She completed the premed requirements and planned to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), but as she shadowed doctors and nurses, she soon began reassessing her plans.
“I started looking at different doctors and their lives. I just realized I didn’t like their lifestyle,” Goh commented, “I’m a very family oriented person and I wanted to have time to be with family.”
After several conversations with her advisor, who was in the medical profession and has two small children, she realized she could have an equally fulfilling profession in medicine as a nurse.
“I realized that I like a more holistic approach to healthcare and wellness and I like that nurses are more hands-on, dealing with the person. The practice is focused more toward the patients than the illness,” she said.
Goh changed course from becoming a doctor to obtaining her nursing degree, and wanted to obtain it quickly. Then she found the accelerated nursing program at MidAmerica Nazarene University. With family ties in Kansas and the opportunity to obtain a nursing degree in a year, the
ABSN program provided the plan Goh needed. So she moved to Kansas to live with her grandmother, a nurse, while she focuses on her studies in the academically challenging and fast-paced nursing program.
Goh feels privileged to have been accepted into the accelerated program and be one of the MNU students to receive the New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholarship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The scholarship exists to encourage students into the nursing field and promote diversity. MNU is one of 52 select institutions nationwide to receive the funding, and one of only 8 to receive 5 consecutive rounds of NCIN funding.
She hopes to become a Nurse Practitioner and eventually obtain her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) after she completes the one-year accelerated program.
“I was excited to jump in and get started. I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time to get another bachelors’ degree. So now I’m just taking it one day at a time and it’s just flying by,” she said.
Justin Johng, 2013 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
MNU Nursing Program Provides Student with Career Opportunity to Help Others
Having several nurses and doctors in his family made choosing a profession in nursing an easy decision for Justin Johng. MNU’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program (ABSN) was in the right location and provides just the right resources for his goal to become a nurse.
Johng obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where he was raised. After completing his degree he moved to Overland Park, Kansas and married his wife, an elementary school teacher, then began work at a bank.
“It just took a few years of working after college and deciding on what I would rather do,” Johng said.
To make his decision, Johng spent a month in Nebraska shadowing his uncle who is a doctor, and after experiencing life in a hospital and many conversations with professionals, Johng decided to pursue nursing.
“I really enjoy the patient interaction. Most doctors usually get only seven or eight minutes with their patients before they have to move on. I like being able to spend more time with the patients and be more social with them,” he commented.
The flexibility a nursing degree provides for moving around and the range of career options in the nursing profession also appealed to Johng, so he began working on his prerequisites for nursing. Having earned his degree and chosen his profession, he wanted to get started on his career quickly.
“Since I wasn’t a Kansas native, I had to ask others what they had heard about different nursing programs. More often than not, MNU’s name came up,” he commented.
The accelerated one-year program appealed to Johng and with great recommendations for MNU, he knew the program was right for him.
“I didn’t know much about the program but I decided to submit application at the last minute. Knowing that it was a one-year program and close to where my wife and I live, and that it was well known in the community as being a good school, helped influence my decision,” Johng said.
Johng resigned from his position at the bank and began the nursing program last fall. While pursuing nursing school full-time, Johng feels fortunate to be one of the students who received the New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholarship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The scholarship exists to encourage students into the nursing field and promote diversity. MNU is one of 52 select institutions nationwide to receive the funding, and one of only 8 to receive 5 consecutive rounds of NCIN funding.
Johng is excited to complete his degree in nursing and use his talents and knowledge in medicine to work in the Kansas City area and someday volunteer for a medical mission trip.
“I’ve always been someone who enjoys helping people. That’s where I feel like I get most out of life. Not only that, I want to use my career to help people, like volunteering in the community and being active in my church,” he said.
Jonathan Knipker, 2013 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
MNU Alum Chooses Nursing Program for His Growing Family
MNU alum Jonathan Knipker is an enthusiastic learner who was excited to jump back into school with the accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing program (ABSN) at MNU to further his career in the medical field.
Majoring in chemistry at MNU, Knipker originally planned to pursue pharmacy, but soon after graduation realized the pharmacy business was not for him.
“My family has always been in business, but I learned that business is not for me. I like the client and healthcare aspect,” Knipker said about his choice to head into the medical care as opposed to pharmacy.
Unsure of which of many routes to take in health care, Knipker took a few years off. Always eager to expand his knowledge, he contemplated pursuing medical school, but after starting a family Knipker and his wife decided that six more years of school was not their best option. Remembering his grandmother’s profession in nursing, Knipker decided that obtaining his nursing license was the route best suited for him.
“I applied to med school, but once my wife and I got married, we decided one year of nursing school as opposed to six more years of school is more realistic,” he commented, “I love science and I love people, so it went together.”
So Knipker looked at his alma mater, MNU, to obtain his nursing degree in just a year.
“I have friends that have gone through the traditional and the accelerated nursing programs, and they all really liked it. And MNU has a really good nursing program. That’s where I got my undergraduate degree, so it was the first choice on my list,” Knipker commented.
Knipker is completing the one-year accelerated nursing program full-time while his wife works, and is one of the students who received the New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholarship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The scholarship exists to encourage students into the nursing field and promote diversity. MNU is one of 52 select institutions nationwide to receive the funding.
Because the program is accelerated it is quite rigorous. Knipker and his wife have had to adjust to their new lifestyle, with Knipker’s 45-minute commute to school from their home in Kearney, Missouri and a young daughter. They make sure to set aside a few hours each evening to spend with each other and their one-year old daughter.
“I love to learn, so I wasn’t nervous to start the program. The biggest challenge has been trying to balance time with family and schoolwork,” he said.
After completion of the program, Knipker hopes to obtain a job in the Kansas City area, possibly in pediatric nursing.
Allison Mitchell, 2013 RWJF-NCIN Scholar
Firsthand experience leads student to nursing
Working with indigenous populations abroad in need of good health care charted the course for Allison Mitchell to pursue nursing, leading her to MNU’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program (ABSN).
A public health major from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, Mitchell fell in love with the idea of helping others in dire need of health care through her work overseas with Engineers Without Borders. The organization coordinates development programs all over the world. Through her experience Mitchell witnessed a sincere need for health care and education in impoverished Ecuador and Laos.
“After volunteering with disadvantaged indigenous populations in Ecuador and Laos, I realized there is a great need in the world for health education and improved public health initiatives,” Mitchell said. “I knew I needed more tools and education to pursue my passion to help improve others’ health, so I returned to school at MNU for nursing.”
To pursue nursing Mitchell began researching nursing schools in the Kansas area where her family lives. MNU’s excellent ratings for its nursing program and a recommendation from an MNU graduate student influenced her decision to apply for the ABSN program.
The science of nursing along with the human touch has always appealed to Mitchell, and her mother, who is also a nurse, encouraged her to pursue the career.
“I love the science behind nursing and I feel nursing will always bring exciting challenges,” she commented. “My mother has been such an incredible inspiration. Her patients have been very grateful for her work and I admire her ability to care for others.”
Mitchell is one of five MNU students who received the New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholarship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in 2013. The scholarship exists to encourage students into the nursing field and promote diversity. MNU is one of 52 select institutions nationwide to receive the funding, and one of only 8 to receive 5 consecutive rounds of NCIN funding.
After graduation from the accelerated program, she plans to work with disadvantaged populations in a rural community or possibly with a Native American community in the United States.
“I realized there is a great need in the world for health education and improved public health initiatives. I hope to merge and apply my knowledge of public health and nursing to strengthen the health of indigenous communities nationally and internationally,” Mitchell said.
Excited to complete her studies and embark on a career that enables her to use her knowledge Mitchell can’t wait to fulfill her passion to help others.
“Nursing will allow me to work with those in need. It will challenge me to grow and learn from others, as well as to be a leader and teacher to my patients. I look forward to waking up every day knowing I can be of use to those who are in need,” Mitchell said.
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.”
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