From a young age, Karachi Egbuta, a recipient of this year's Minority Nurse Magazine Scholarship, knew she wanted to be involved in healthcare. A bachelor's degree in biology led her to different healthcare jobs after graduation, but it was seeing the interactions between nurses and patients at various jobs and volunteer positions that convinced her nursing was the career choice for her.
“Nurses interacted with patients from start to end,” says Egbuta, a student at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, New York. “I saw how caring nurses are, how they comforted patients, and how they would advocate for their patients.” And seeing patients put so much faith and trust in the nurses, confiding in them in ways they might not with their physicians, impressed Egbuta.
“I just watched that, and I knew I wanted to do nursing,” she says. Her husband, an ob/gyn resident, opened her eyes to actually making a career out of nursing and encouraged her to follow that path.
Egbuta's varied healthcare experience, through work, volunteerism, or her own travels, have all given her a global understanding of healthcare's pressing and vast issues.
She spent two years as a public health advocate with the Jacobi Medical Center researching and testing patients for HIV, and continues to volunteer in an ER department where she sees all kinds of healthcare needs and situations. Her work impressed upon her the importance of patients' healthcare education and information. Her own travels to visit family in Nigeria gave her insight into the discrepancies of global healthcare and fueled her passion to help others. “They talked about the hunger and the struggles, and it makes you realize everything you have here,” she says. “It's all those little things they need that we have access to here.”
Egbuta, who expects to earn her degree in May 2015, knew going back to school wasn't going to be easy for her. She says she struggled getting her first degree, so she knew another degree would require all her focus, but she was pulled by nursing's appeal. “Nursing gave me the best balance I could hope for,” she says.
“The beauty of nursing is that you can do anything,” says Egbuta. “I love that because I like a little bit of everything.” And with an infant daughter, Egbuta says nursing's flexibility will help her manage work and family.
And Egbuta already knows the challenges of trying to manage family and work. Her daughter was born during the toughest semester of nursing school yet. With the help of family, support from faculty, and a razor-sharp focus to finish nursing school, Egbuta had her baby on a Thursday and was back in class on Monday.
As a student, Egbuta sees that nursing is a challenging profession despite its rewards. “There's lots that will test you in nursing,” she says. “The hardest is dealing with different patients' moods. You want to do everything you can to make them happy.” Egbuta finds compassion for their situation helps. “You have to put yourself in their shoes,” she says. “No one wants to be in the hospital. They are just uncomfortable. So you have to be comforting to them even when they are in a bad mood.”
Egbuta plans to start in a med/surg unit upon graduation so she can get broad experience. “You learn about everything that has to do with medical conditions,” she says. And with dermatology and skin conditions one of Egbuta's top interests, she is likely to see patients with a range of skin issues. “Skin is the first barrier,” Egbuta explains.
Eventually, Egbuta can see furthering her education to become a family nurse practitioner, but until then she wants to just be the best nurse she can.
“A lot of people know nursing is the hardest undergrad and a lot of people don't make it,” she says. “I always say, 'If I can do it, anyone can do it.' You have to put in the time. It's very intense, but they are trying to prepare you to be the best nurse you can be.”