Even from the time she was a very young girl in China, YiWan Wu has watched the incredible changes individual nurses bring around with their careful and dedicated care. Now a student in Stony Brook University’s nursing program and a runner up for this year’s Minority Nurse Scholarship, Wu’s graduation next spring will bring her that much closer to her goal of being a nurse who helps people get healthy and stay that way with good preventative care and lots of knowledge.

Wu’s decision to become a pediatric nurse practitioner followed the same path of many other nurses. “I saw in China how nurses interact with the patients and how a nurse’s care and interaction can make a difference,” she says. “It inspired me and I thought, ‘I want to be a caring nurse for other people,’” she says.

Unfortunately, Wu saw both sides of the story. When her grandmother passed away in 2004, Wu says her care experience was poor. So seeing the difference a good nurse can make reinforced her beliefs even more.

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Wu’s family immigrated to the US in 2008, and Wu went on to begin her undergraduate work at Stony Brook. During several volunteering opportunities, she saw the changes nurses can make and listened to the visions they had for their care giving. She credits her good experiences with the other nurses for giving her ideas on how she wanted to make positive interactions with patients. “It makes such a change in health care,” she says. And she was open with the nurses she watched so closely. “I told them, ‘You changed my life,’” she says. “They taught me so much and gave me the vision of what I wanted to do.”

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Wu’s volunteer efforts have brought her into daily contact with stoke patients and those who might not be verbal or who may have very limited communication. “I just try to make it easier for them,” says Wu. “And make sure they are not suffering. And I talk to them when the family members aren’t around.” Keeping up a constant stream of one-sided chatter was challenging at first, she says. But as she got to know her patients, they were able to develop communication through small movements. Family and visitors would tell Wu about the patient’s life, and she often used those details to talk with them, even if they couldn’t respond.

Eventually, Wu plans to go into pediatrics. Wu herself was a premature and ill baby in China, and she believes better resources would have helped her more. Her early experiences have helped shape her commitment to healthy living and to educating others about living a healthy life.

I really believe in preventative care,” she says. She uses whatever means she’s got to make sure others are informed and educated about everything from HIV testing to getting flu shots. Wu’s volunteer efforts are extensive and award winning. At school, she’s a peer educator with CHOICE – Choosing Healthy Options in the College Environment – and in leadership programs as well. She was selected as a student representative of the American College Health Association.

One cause close to Wu’s heart is bone marrow testing, and she has launched many bone marrow donor drives in her community. People are afraid donating life-saving bone marrow will be very painful and is risky, she says. As with everything, Wu says, there’s a slight risk to it, but most donors are back to work in 48 hours. And something relatively simple can save someone’s life. “I want to help as much as I can,” she says. Thus far, Wu says she has added 362 new donors to national lists and raised more than $1800 for the cause.

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Wu hopes to study abroad before she settles into full-time work and would like to travel to Africa. Post-graduation, the NCLEX exams will be at the top of her to-do list, and she is glad the scholarship will make her path easier. “I did not expect that I would get this,” says Wu about the scholarship. “It makes me very happy.”

Eventually, she would like to work in an emergency unit with a high immigrant population and earn her doctorate of nursing practice. “It would be my dream to give back to the profession and become a professor of nursing,” she says.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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