For many college graduates, an air of uncertainty surrounds their next steps. Where will I get a job? Who is hiring? Health care graduates, however, know exactly where the future jobs are: at the center of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
As leaders across the country decide whether it is safe to open sit-down restaurants and public pools, these recent graduates are sending out resumes.
“I take precaution, but I am not worried because I have a job to do,” respiratory nurse Leonille Maniraguha said.
Here are some of their stories:
Leonille Maniraguha: From Rwanda to respiratory nurse
Maniraguha, 52, has faced many difficulties and triumphs in her life. She moved to the United States from Rwanda, learned to speak English and became a wife and mother. Now, she is unafraid of her next challenge: taking on respiratory health amid a pandemic.
The Chandler resident and Gateway Community College graduate was drawn to respiratory health after watching her son have breathing complications as a child. While he grew out of them, Maniraguha was left curious about the cause and how to help others like him. That curiosity was further inspired by a class she took while studying nursing that discussed respiratory wellness.
“I saw how directly this field helps people,” she said. “We have so much to do and we are all trying to save people.”
That may be especially true during the pandemic, as the virus impacts the respiratory system. Her willingness to help also applies to those infected with COVID-19, which is known to cause respiratory issues. However, she is not any more concerned about her career choice than she was before the pandemic.
“Everybody is worried about when this will be over but there are so many things you can be afraid of,” she said.
She is concerned about where the future may lead, but said that concern does not override the fact that she has a job to do.
Maniraguha is ready to take the next step in her career and take the exam that will allow her to practice what she has learned.
“I am so proud of what I have done in my life,” she said. “I am happy because I know more things that I didn’t know before.”
Kathleen Tucker adapts in pandemic and earns nursing degree
Kathleen Tucker’s father — a hero in scrubs — inspired her to join the health care profession. She graduated this month from Arizona State University’s nursing program. As a child, she was enamored by her dad’s stories as a cardiovascular intensive care nurse. Hearing about his day was a highlight of her childhood, she said, especially when she realized the impact he had on his patients’ lives.
Tucker celebrated her graduation online from her home in Tuscon, just as she completed the last half of her clinicals. Before the transition to online, she had been partnered with a facility to gain in-person experience.
“I went for one shift before (university officials) decided to pull us for our safety,” Tucker said.
She said ASU’s decision to move clinicals and classes online was disappointing at first. It was difficult to complete all of the different medical scenarios and case studies online, she said, but the unpredictability of these times taught her a valuable lesson in nursing.
“It’s about being adaptable and putting in hard work and determination,” Tucker said. “I really dove deep into my online work and viewed it as another opportunity to get clinical experience.”
Support was critical in her education, and she found it in her professors and fellow nursing students.
“Nursing is a team sport and it was so nice to see that before I graduated,” Tucker said.
Jeffrey Asman says it’s never too late as he earns pharmacy degree at 56
After finishing his degree at the University of Arizona as a doctor in pharmacy, Jeffrey Asman, 56, said the decision to go back to school in his “second half of life” was an easy one.
Asman always knew he wanted to be in the health field, but he did not immediately follow that path. First, he started a business and raised four children. Once they were grown, the Tuscon resident decided to return to his lifelong passion of health care. He enrolled in the six-year pharmacy program at UA.
“I think the public perception of pharmacists is that we’re just pill cutters, but that isn’t true,” he said.
Asman said pharmacists work in partnership with physicians to diagnose and treat ailments. Once the physician identifies the cause of the problem, the pharmacist offers guidance on the best treatment.
“We are important players and members of the healthcare team,” he said.
Asman must wait for pharmacy exams to reopen before he can practice as a pharmacist. He is prepared for when they do, as he is eager to provide his knowledge to help people during the pandemic.
He hopes his non-traditional approach to earning his degree encourages other people to follow their dreams regardless of their age and life experience.
“I was 48 or 49 wondering if my old college credits were any good,” he said. “It is cliche to say but really true that it is never too late.”
Fernando Mendivil aims ‘to treat every patient as if they were my own mother’
Fernando Mendivil knew what he wanted to do in life, and it wasn’t nursing. That is, until he suffered a sports injury his senior year of high school and experienced all that nurses do.
The health care workers who treated his torn meniscus saw him as an “actual human being,” and the importance of that made an impact. In that moment, Mendivil knew he wanted to offer that same kindness and support to others. He recently graduated from Northern Arizona University’s nursing program.
The pandemic has not made him regret his career decision. Instead, he said he looks forward to being a positive force in the health field.
“It is important to me that even now, there is still a lot of good in the world,” he said. “I want to be the good for some people, and I know there are little things that can make the saddest days a little bright.”
Mendivil, who lives in Ahwatukee, is taking care of his mother, who recently had a lung transplant. He is thankful that he can be there for his mom in times like these, where recovering from a major surgery can cause larger risk for complications if she contracts COVID-19.
“Going through this whole situation will make me better in terms of being conscientious,” he said. “I know to treat every patient as if they were my own mother.”
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