Yvonne Shih, one of this year’s recipients of a Minority Nurse Magazine Scholarship, took a huge leap of faith when she moved from California to Boston to attend the Boston College William F. Connell School of Nursing.
Tough as it was to leave family and friends behind in the area where she spent her whole life, Shih knew the move was going to bring her closer to her goal of becoming a nurse. “It’s not about seeing problems or obstacles but to just look ahead,” she says.
Pursing a nursing career wasn’t something Shih even considered until her freshman year of high school. When a family member had health issues, a visiting nurse made a lasting impression when she simply said to Shih, “Maybe you should think about nursing.”
“I didn’t know it was even an option until she said it,” says Shih, who expects to graduate in May 2015. But, she says, her own personality traits of enjoying taking care of people and making others comfortable might have tipped her off.
“I definitely like the idea of being able to help people for the rest of my life,” Shih says. Making patients feel comfortable in an unfamiliar setting or situation that isn’t always easy appeals to her.
And the variability of a nursing career, one where you can care for patients at their bedside in a hospital setting or out in the community is something that she finds compelling. Events like school shootings or the Boston Marathon bombings, which happened so close to Boston College, have helped shape Shih’s future course. She is interested especially in psych nursing. “With the school shootings, you can see how important being a psych nurse is and how it can benefit the community,” she says.
Despite the enormous time challenges of any nursing student, Shih fits in even more nursing-related activities outside the classroom. She is the president of the Massachusetts Student Nurses Association, is a group leader at the Cornerstone Church of Boston, and represents BC in several networking and leadership events. Of everything, Shih finds her own internal expectations to be the most daunting. “It’s just tough being hard on yourself,” she says, “and making sure you are on top of everything and presenting yourself well. It’s hard to maintain a balance of everything.”
But Shih finds incredible support in her family, friends, school, and her faith. And, she says, even pressure beyond just the typical school worries show her just a taste of what life after college might hold. But she has had incredible mentoring experiences working with BC faculty on an advanced study grant for her research on nurse staffing ratios in California and Massachusetts and a fellowship for an NIH-funded study on sleep apnea.
Although she says people might first notice her skin color or her features, being a minority isn’t a disadvantage as a nurse, even if some people might still believe that, she says. She would like to empower other minority nursing students to see their strengths. At BC she has even led a faculty and student discussion on racism at the Boston College School of Nursing Diversity Advisory Board Stand Against Racism event.
Shih believes in meeting others and being brave or bold enough to just ask people for help. When she first arrived at BC and wanted to find out how to combine studying nursing with the economics and business of healthcare, she simply asked a dean about it. The dean, in turn, put her in touch with several faculty who had the expertise she needed.
With one more year to go, Shih is thankful to her family and her school for the support they have given her. She follows the advice she would give to any nursing student who is trying to make a mark and to find others to guide them along their journey.
“You might not instantly click with everyone,” she says, “but don’t feel discouraged. And don’t ever give up.”
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