Pho, who worked in New York City in the beginning of the pandemic, says the nursing community and his nursing work gave him a purpose through a distinctly challenging time. “You choose a place and you choose an environment to create the most potential for relationships,” he says. “The people and nurses I met are so phenomenal.” And while the pandemic did bring a fear of an unknown threat, Pho says nurses just did their jobs. “When you sign up for nursing, this is what you sign up for,” he says.
Nursing is Pho’s second career; he was in the software industry for more than a decade. “I didn’t want to do that anymore,” he says. “It was the same plot line and a different cast of characters.” Pho was accepted into the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing accelerated BSN program with the intention of returning to the Bay Area and working as a nurse. “But I met my tribe at Hopkins,” he says, and ended up staying to complete an MSN and an MPH there as well, working as an ED nurse and even working with an emergency medical residency program in Tanzania.
After Hopkins, Pho moved to New York City and became an NP at Weill Cornell Medical while also holding a teaching role. A lifelong advocate for LGBTQ health issues, Pho had a casual conversation with a physician who needed someone to develop the LGBTQ section of a curriculum on vulnerable populations and asked if he was interested. That led to a five-year teaching role at Weill Cornell Medical where he taught the first-ever LGBTQ health curriculum for the internal medicine residency program. In 2017, he left the role to pursue his PhD studies at Columbia University which he completed in 2020.
The spring of 2020 was a pivotal time for any nursing student, but for one in New York City, it was working in chaos. But for Pho, it totally cemented his dedication to his profession. Pho worked at Callen-Lorde Community Health in New York City, one of the largest providers of LGBTQ health care in that city.
“We staffed one of the convalescent hotels in Queens, and 50 percent of the patients were COVID positive from the shelter system and the remainder symptomatic,.” he says. “During that time I lived in a third-floor walkup in New York City, and I worked from 8 pm to 8 am while working on my dissertation,” recalls Pho, who also serves as a board member for GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality. “Nursing saved me. It was a horrible time, but my queer nurses–we were together all the time. I think about my nurses, my role, my identity, and how it all gave me a purpose. I know it saved me. We were helping save people who society didn’t want to help.”
Through it all–the uncertainty, the lack of solid information, the severe illness of patients–Pho said a guiding principle made all the difference. “I think about being a nurse,” he says, “and a sense of purpose. I knew this is what I was meant to do. It got me up every day.”
Pho says his career has been paved by taking chances and finding opportunity when he could, and making opportunities when he couldn’t. And each task he completed or each chance he took led him to be in the right place at the right time–and with the right skills–to be able to offer the help that was so needed. “You make your own luck,” he says, a lot of which he says is based on the grind of doing the hard work day in and day out. “It’s important that you show up, not because you think it’s good for your career, but because you are truly passionate about it. The rest will follow. You do it because you want to make the queer universe a better place.”
He remains enthusiastic about nursing and the students who aspire to roles like his. “New grad nurses are so inspiring to me,” he says. One new nurse was having a hard day, Pho says, and he could tell she needed the pep talk he offered. “She said to me, ‘I needed to hear that validation.'” The moment struck a chord for Pho. “I told her, “Don’t think for a minute that I don’t have those days.'” Despite his experience and education, Pho says nurses still sometimes need someone to let you know, yes, you are a nurse and look at all you are doing.
“I started to see my role a little differently,” Pho says. “Sometimes it seems like all the dots seem to connect perfectly, but I’ll tell you it doesn’t feel that way when you’re doing it.” In fact, the way a nursing career progresses is sometimes based on opportunity but, more frequently, it’s something else. “I don’t think it’s predestined,” he says. “You make choices–not right choices and not wrong choices. There’s grace in the work.”
When he is not treating kids as a pediatric Transitional Care Unit (TCU) nurse at VCU Health in Richmond, VA, Ren Capucao, MSN traces the rich heritage of Filipino nurses in the US.
As a nurse historian (Capucao’s first article was published in 2019 in the Nursing History Review), he focuses on studying the fascinating story of Filipino American nurses. Capucao is working toward a PhD at the University of Virginia School of Nursing, and his scholarship has shown so much promise that he has been named a Fulbright Scholar for 2022-23 and will be a Fellow at the University of the Philippines, Manila.
“Seeing through my mother’s lens as a nurse,” Capucao says, brought home to him “the sacrifices she made to care for her loved ones. For all the trailblazing nurses that immigrated to the U.S., I can only imagine the struggles they faced on top of caring for patients often culturally dissimilar, so I am humbled to have these nurses invite me into their homes and openly share their memories.”
Capucao will use the Fulbright grant to travel to the Philippines during the 2022-23 academic year to continue his investigations into Filipino nurses’ histories, conducting interviews, collecting oral histories, and diving into historical archives. He is also an editor for the nursing and medical history blog Nursing Clio, and his dissertation study “Pressed into Starched Whites: Nursing Identity in Filipino American History” has already earned him grants and accolades from the Virginia Humanities, the Philippine Nurses Association of America, the Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry and the Barbara Bates Center for the Studying of the History of Nursing.
In this video, “A Culture to Care,” Ren shares some background on the history of Filipino nurses in the US and his own very personal links to nursing and the tradition of nursing among Filipinos.
Six years ago, Conville was a gunshot wound victim. The bullet injured the left side of his face, and he was rushed into life-saving surgery.
“I woke up in a lot of pain, in a dark room. I was alone except for my nurse. I couldn’t do anything but cry.”
“I woke up from later that night and realized I was still alive. I was relieved, but at the same time I woke up in a lot of pain, in a dark room. I was alone except for my nurse. I couldn’t do anything but cry,” Conville said. “I was a 21-year-old and supposed to be this big, strong athlete, but I felt weak and powerless. But my nurse stayed there, comforted me during my worst moments. That inspired me to want to do something to help other people.”
Over the next few months, Conville underwent several surgeries and faced a long road to recovery. His initial plans—playing college baseball and attending medical school—were derailed as recovery took a mental and physical toll.
But the support of friends and family and an opportunity at UAB Hospital helped him rediscover his passion.
“It was very difficult for me to take my next steps forward in my education, but the one thing that always spurred me on a little bit, or kept my feet moving, was my nurse that night after surgery,” Conville said. “I can’t remember her name, and I hardly remember her face, but I will always remember what she did for me.”
His nurse’s care led Conville to seek out ways to help others. When a family friend and Senior Director of Emergency Services at UAB Medicine Frankie Wallis, DNP, NP-C, NEA-BC, COI, reached out about a shadowing opportunity in the emergency department, Conville jumped at the chance.
“I knew Cade wanted to help people and make a difference, and I said that if he wanted to be in health care, UAB was the place to be,” Wallis said.
“It was very difficult for me to take my next steps forward in my education, but the one thing that always spurred me on a little bit, or kept my feet moving, was my nurse that night after surgery.”
After shadowing in the emergency department, Conville knew it was the right next step.
“UAB is such a big, bustling hospital. I recognized all of our patients in need, but there is also an excitement because there was so much we could do at once,” Conville said. “It brought me back to this team atmosphere, where I could be part of a group that cared about something, where everyone pulled in the same direction. That spoke to me—I put my resume in the same night.”
Conville took a job as a patient care technician and thrived in the experience, but eventually, he felt compelled to return to school and further his education. Through the support of his family and Wallis, he applied to nursing school.
“I looked up to the nurses I worked with, and it brought back the memory of the young woman who helped me that night,” Conville said. “I thought that if I could do the same thing for someone else, it would make all the hours of extra work worthwhile.”
After consulting with mentors, including Wallis, and doing research of his own, Conville decided the Accelerated Masters of Nursing Pathway at the UAB School of Nursing was the best step forward. The program is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree or higher in another field and creates an accelerated track toward licensure and a master’s in nursing.
“I knew the program was for me. I already had a degree under my belt, but it also felt like I had the time management skills to take on such a rigorous program,” said Conville, who also has a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology.
“I’ve had several other staff members who have come through the AMNP program,” Wallis said. “It’s a great program, and when I talked to Cade about it, I had every bit of belief he could do it. I talked to him about pursuing this degree, while cautioning him about the tough road ahead. But at the end of the road there is a reward.”
When Conville started the AMNP program in fall 2020, he found another team in pursuit of helping others. Faculty offered continuous support and encouragement throughout challenges, he said, and provided the tools necessary to move forward.
“I looked up to the nurses I worked with, and it brought back the memory of the young woman who helped me that night. I thought that if I could do the same thing for someone else, it would make all the hours of extra work worthwhile.”
“One day I sat down with [AMNP Pathway Director] Michael Mosley, MSN, CRNP, ANP-BC (MSN 2012) and we talked about why he pushes us so hard to get the right answer and to understand why we got that answer,” Conville said. “He said that when you’re working with a patient, you’re not just checking boxes. And while you can make two or three mistakes on a test and still get a 96, if you make two or three mistakes with a person, you can really hurt them. That told me a lot about him as a person—he truly cares about us and wants us to be the best nurses possible.”
Conville also made an impact on his peers in his AMNP cohort. They selected him as the fall 2021 recipient of the Florence Nightingale Award, a recognition of his passion for quality of nursing care and pursuit of excellence. It was also the reason he stood up to speak about resilience at the Senior Recognition Ceremony.
“This award reiterates Cade’s personal characteristics and his commitment to nursing,” Wallis said. “It shows his dedication and how well he works within a team, how he incorporates team theory to develop relationships with his peers and colleagues. He is a great young man with great potential, great abilities and he will move forward to do great things in the future of health care.”
Conville finished the AMNP program in fall 2021 and accepted a job at UAB Hospital in spring 2022. He wants to further his education and work toward a career in nursing management.
Conville continues that refrain of resilience, for his future and the future of nursing.
“I know the state of nursing isn’t perfect right now, that a lot of us who are graduating and going into the workforce have a difficult road ahead of us,” Conville said. “We’re joining health care in one of the most difficult times to be a health care professional, and we just have to be as diligent as we possibly can. We need to understand that our patients need us, and we need each other. We’re going to get through this together. While there are a lot of tough times going on, it’s still a great time to be a nurse.”
“You know, when I was in nursing school, I never saw anyone that looked like me as an instructor.” Erik Carter, PhD, MS, APRN, CNS, CCRN-A, PHN, director of undergraduate programs for the Wayne State University College of Nursing, recalls “thinking it would be nice, at some point in my career, if I could be a face that students could see in themselves and say, “Hey, wow, that could be me one day.”
Carter – who teaches the college’s transition to practice class and is currently serving a three-year term as a human rights commissioner for the City of Detroit – was barely old enough to drive when he launched his career.
The California native became an LVN at 17 after completing a program in high school, and by 1990 he had earned his RN as a public health nurse. Carter caught the teaching bug about 10 years later while working as an acute and critical care cardiovascular nurse in San Fransisco. Observing Carter sharing his experience with local students during clinical rounds, an impressed faculty member urged him to add teaching to his skill-set. The young man was soon dividing his time between bedside nursing and work as a clinical instructor at a community college.
About two years later, Carter’s career lanes started to merge after yet another impressed colleague – this time, an African American faculty member – encouraged him to join the growing ranks of melanin-enhanced nurse educators. It was an inspired idea, as “no one had ever asked me if I was interested in graduate work,” and BSN grads from California to Michigan are certainly glad that someone finally did pop the question.
However, long before there was a string of credentials following his name, Carter had just three letters to his credit: LVN. Below, he recounts his journey…
Why did you become a nurse?
My matriculation into nursing was a little bit different than the traditional route. I started my nursing career as a licensed vocational nurse. In high school, where I lived in Los Angeles County, a program offered interested and eligible students a portal into the health care realm. I applied for the program toward the end of my junior year. I completed the program in my senior year, with additional requisite courses that I took at night to fulfill my graduation requirements. After the program, I met the requirements and was able to sit for the NCLEX for vocational nurses, so that’s how I started my career in nursing. I was 17 at the time and had to wait until I turned 18 because they were unsure if a 17 year old should have access to drugs and dispensing narcotics; nevertheless, I became licensed and started work in long-term care after graduating high school.
“If you genuinely want to serve others in your community, nursing is one of the best ways to go about doing it.”
How did you get into teaching?
I worked at this hospital in San Francisco — California Pacific Medical Center — in a heart transplant unit. One of the local colleges had instructors who would bring students to our department. I loved having the students and sharing what I knew regarding nursing. One of the instructors observed all this activity happening between myself and the students, so I was approached and asked if I would be interested in being a clinical instructor. So, I applied to the college and became a clinical instructor for this community college nursing program on top of my regular bedside nursing position.
“‘Have you ever thought about going back to grad school?’
It was a surreal question, as no one had ever asked me if I was interested in graduate work, nor did I think it was an option for myself.”
A couple of years into that program, I met another African American faculty member working there. He was completing his Ph.D. at the University of California San Francisco. We just started having a conversation, and he said, “Have you ever thought about going back to grad school?” It was a surreal question, as no one had ever asked me if I was interested in graduate work, nor did I think it was an option for myself. In high school, this conversation never took place.
I hadn’t actually, but I thought about it for about a month or so, and I said, “You know, when I was in nursing school, I never saw anyone that looked like me as an instructor.” I remember thinking it would be nice, at some point in my career, if I could be a face that students could see in themselves and say, “Hey, wow, that could be me one day.”
You were appointed last June as a human rights commissioner for Detroit District 5. How did that come about?
The Human Rights Commission falls under the auspices of CRIO, which is the Civil Rights, Inclusion & Opportunity Department for the City of Detroit. I know the director — she’s a friend of mine — and we often have conversations. One day, I talked about wanting to do more within the community. As a faculty member of the College of Nursing, there’s a trifecta that includes teaching and scholarship and the element of service to the nursing profession and the communities that we serve.
“One day, I talked about wanting to do more within the community…”
At Wayne State, I’m charged with training students to become nurses to provide care for those who live within our community. I was trying to think of a way I could connect these endeavors, and she said, “Well, have you ever thought about being a commissioner for the Human Rights Commission in your district?”
I started thinking about it and was like, Yes, I can see that connection. So, we had further conversations. I had to be interviewed by the Detroit City Council, and they agreed that this was a good fit, and I was appointed as a human rights commissioner for District 5. To be part of the commission, you must live within that district, and we live in the downtown area, which encompasses District 5.
What are your responsibilities with this appointment?
Primarily, [the commissioner] is the point person for constituents who want to get information on equal economic, political and educational opportunities so that all have equal access. When I was reading through the charter, the part that stuck out to me was access to educational opportunities. For me, it always goes back to representation. We’re an urban university nestled in Detroit, which is a large percentage, I would say 80%, African American — but when you look at our nursing cohorts admitted into our programs, they are an underrepresented population, so I am trying to think of a way to increase potential nursing students’ admission into our programs and how that connects to that charter and my role as a human rights commissioner in Detroit.
We are still in a pandemic. Why should people consider a career in nursing?
I think the exact reason you would come into nursing if there were not a pandemic. If you want to offer something to your community in your heart of hearts, I think it speaks volumes to you as a human being to provide needed care to those who require it.
The nursing profession has tentacles that reach so many different areas of health care. You can begin your career in primary care and move to a community setting. After a couple of years, you can start in the med-surg department and transition into critical care. There’s just so much that you can do in this profession. If you genuinely want to serve others in your community, nursing is one of the best ways to go about doing it.
Minority Nurse recently caught up with David Nguyen, an early career nurse in Boston who decided when he was young that a career in nursing was his path. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Nguyen jumped full time into a role at Boston Medical Center where he enjoys working on a diverse team that provides care for a diverse population.
Please tell me a little about your background and your current job.
I am a first-generation Vietnamese American college graduate. I aspire to leverage diversity as a tool to enhance understanding and compassion in the medical field. My goal as a nurse is to increase access to care, lessen patient stigma, and provide exceptional care. More specifically, my aim is to provide quality care to underserved populations, which includes people experiencing homelessness, intimate partner violence, immigrants, and people with substance-abuse disorders. Serving these vulnerable populations is important to me because they are often stigmatized and have negative health outcomes associated with social determinants of health.
I am currently a registered nurse at Boston Medical Center in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. I chose to work at Boston Medical Center because I’ve witnessed how the nurses and interprofessional staff execute skillful care on a daily basis to all of their patients without regard to their race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and culture, directly impacting social determinates of health for all patients.
When did you realize nursing was the right career choice for you?
Early exposure to state-of-the-art care made nursing a sound career choice for me. At a young age, I was constantly in and out of a hospital for a physical ailment. I experienced doctors and nurses working diligently to provide the best care they could for me as a child in a low-income, non-English-speaking family. I aspired to be like them as they advanced the healing of people and promoted good health and well-being. Later on in my life, my grandmother was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and I became keener on medical professionals, specifically doctors and nurses. When I joined my grandmother during her chemotherapy treatments, I noticed how doctors reported diagnostics, while nurses served an essential role in helping the patient maintain good vigor and health. Ultimately, by observing the compassion and care of the nurses, I was inspired to choose nursing as a profession.
How did you decide on a specialty area of nursing and why are you drawn to that area?
I decided on my specialty area of critical care in my senior year of nursing school when I did my role transition nursing preceptorship clinical in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Boston Medical Center. I am drawn to critical care because of the team aspect of working with many interprofessionals, providing care for the patients and families during a vulnerable time. Critical care has taught me the importance of advocating for and honoring patients and families.
How has the transition from nursing school to full-time nurse been? What helped you along the way?
My transition from nursing school to becoming a nurse has been smooth so far. I strongly feel that the University of Massachusetts Lowell nursing professors prepared me for real world experiences and nursing skills. As a new graduate at Boston Medical Center in MICU, I have many resources and support systems in place, which include my nurse educator, nurse managers, and nursing preceptor. Working with these professionals, who are knowledgeable and experienced, is helpful to my growth as a critical care nurse.
When we talk about diversity in nursing, it also includes male nurses because nursing is a profession dominated by women. How has your experience been being a male nurse? What do you bring to your patient care approach that you think is especially valuable?
At Boston Medical Center, I have felt welcomed as a male nurse presence since I work in a very diverse and supportive unit in the hospital. Knowing a second language has also been an asset as I can translate and converse with my Vietnamese patients. Sharing the language with Vietnamese patients helps me establish a sense of community and ensure that my patients feel comfortable and trust my care. Lastly, serving as a male nurse is important to my patients since it brings representation and changes to the nursing profession.
Have you had mentors or is there a particular person who has helped you in your nursing journey? Why is that important for a new nurse?
I had many mentors who have helped me in my nursing journey. One of my mentors in nursing school was my nursing professor advisor, who taught me the importance of resilience in achieving my degree as a nurse. Currently in my work environment, my mentors include my nurse educator, nurse preceptor, experienced ICU nurses, previous new grads nurses, and doctors. They helped me develop my critical thinking, nursing skills, and understanding as a new grad in the MICU. As a new nurse, I feel it is important to have a well-structured new grad nursing program,in which they provide support and resources both in and out of the hospital.
Do you think the profession could use more male nurses?
I think the nursing profession could always use more male nurses because nurses provide care indiscriminately; there should be more diversity among staff members to represent the patients. Staff diversity and inclusion enables us to connect with and provide appropriate care for all patients.
What are your plans for the future?
My plan for the future is to become a nurse leader in the nursing profession. As a male nurse, I am working towards overcoming gender barriers and minority barriers with the goal of bringing diversity to the health care team.
As GI Nurses and Associates Week wraps up, gastroenterology nurses nationwide have been able to enjoy a week of celebration and reflection on this nursing specialty.
The Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) sponsors this week as a way to champion GI nurses and associates everywhere. After a particularly challenging couple of years in the nursing industry, GI nurses are celebrating their pride in their career choice and the hard work of all their peers.
Minority Nurse caught up with Jay Lardizabal MAN, BSN, RN, CGRN to talk a little about his career as a GI nurse and what it means to him. As a member of SGNA and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Lardizabal has spent time volunteering his skills with both organizations.
Lardizabal came to nursing in a roundabout way, and his path to becoming a GI nurse emerged because he paid attention to his intuition and his interests. “Coming from a Filipino family, I became a nurse because my mom somewhat pushed me to it,” he says. “Now that I am a nurse, I am happy that she did. I am truly grateful for that–a good reminder that mothers always know best!”
As Lardizabal spent time in the industry, he realized that the GI specialty was something that appealed to his interests and his skills. “I came to GI as a registry RN in 2009,” he says. “Back then, I had no clue as to what GI nurses were doing but I always knew I was happier in the GI department, so I stayed. It’s been 13 years now, and I am still chugging.”
Crediting a continual professional development pursuit, Lardizabal says that while GI nurses have to master the intricacies of the GI tract and all the related systems, being open to lifelong learning expands all the opportunities GI nurses have.
“My professional growth could be attributed to my department and my colleagues,” he says. “I am fortunate to have been one of the nurses sent by my department to attend national conferences like SGNA. That is pivotal in my understanding of what GI nursing all is about.”
Staying current with all the developments in GI treatments is essential, says Lardizabal, and professional development opportunities, whether from conferences, seminars, or courses, helps keep GI nurses current. “The most challenging part of GI is catching up with the speed of how GI technology is evolving,” he says. “It is not a bad thing; it actually benefits the patients.”
Nurses who work in GI are also excellent ambassadors to help spread awareness of their specialty and how much they help patients. “A lot of people do not realize that GI is not only about EGD and colonoscopies,” he says. Explaining what the specialty involves helps remind Lardizabal of why the specialty is so exciting. “When I show students around my department, I can’t help but be amused by how their eyes grow big when they hear about what we do in our lab,” he says. “EGD and colonoscopies are just the tip of the iceberg!”
But it’s the patient interactions and relationships that matter most to GI nurses, especially Lardizabal. “It is an honor to experience being trusted by patients,” he says, “and be handed control on those moments when they feel vulnerable.”