Elizabeth Tsai (1st Quarter, 2006)

1st Quarter, 2006
Nursing Scholarship Winner
Elizabeth Tsai

“After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, and working in the television media industry for two years post graduation, little did I know that I would consider a career change so soon. However, recent experiences have led me to select nursing as an appropriate choice. My reasons for pursuing nursing are very simple, yet focused: live my life to serve and benefit others; contribute to our society and the world at large; and be a part of the healing process in the lives of the broken.”

A Portion of Elizabeth’s Winning Essay:

Elizabeth Tsai

I was inspired in high school when I came across a poster quoting Helen Keller, “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” These inspirational words impressed upon me a lifelong vision and goal of participating in the global mission to reach out to those less fortunate.

It was for this reason that the previous seven summers I dedicated myself to be involved in mission trips around the world in affiliation with various organizations and churches. Although all these trips were amazing experiences worth mentioning, one in particular stands out as the catalyst for my decision to pursue nursing as a lifelong vocation.

Two summers ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer at an orphanage in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. One of our goals included combating the poor health conditions, typical of third world-countries, by providing the orphans and local villagers some basic medical attention. Being in a country during economic decline and political instability, combined with the language barrier and limited resources available, our team encountered numerous challenges and obstacles that were not originally anticipated.

Despite these circumstances, we pulled together and focused on serving the staff at the Grace Haven orphanage. None of us knew how we would go about accomplishing our goals, but we were available, enthusiastic and ready to lend a hand in any way.

Among the many services performed our team, along with two doctors, provided open clinical hours in the community at different schools, which without much surprise drew a high demand in the village. The turnout was so immense that I personally assisted one of the doctors in translating between English and Mandarin, gathering essential patient information, assessing symptoms and problems and providing directions for recovery and treatment.

It was a challenging experience to facilitate communication between the patients and the doctors using the combination of my limited Mandarin speaking ability and universal hand gestures. Though the unbearable heat and jet-lag greatly tested our patience, helping both the doctors and patients easily outweighed the difficulties and costs.

It was here that I experienced firsthand what being a nurse would be like. Although not having much prior training, an asset that I wish I had at the time, I enjoyed spending time with each of the hundreds of patients we received. The illnesses of the patients varied. Some were sick with minor colds, whereas others had cancer that required advanced technological treatment and direction. Due to our limited resources, we could not provide certain complex procedures.

I distinctly remember a man who came to one of the drop-in clinics. Describing his story on paper does no justice. From across the room, I could see that this man had a huge inflammation in his chin that extended down his throat. It looked as if balloons the size of baseballs were implanted underneath his skin. His feet and ankles were heavily swollen, and he walked with much pain.

After the doctor and the interpreter discussed with him his situation, they realized that his condition required hospitalization and surgery. Our interpreter later told us that he had gone to the hospital months before it became so inflamed, and the hospital doctor told him he had cancer which needed to be surgically removed. Apparently, due to lack of finances, he could not afford surgery even though he knew he had cancer. As I heard his story, my heart sank. I wish I could have done something, but legally, there was nothing any of us could have done.

Looking back on my experience in Myanmar, I believe it was extremely influential in shaping my current goals. While my memories at the orphanage and surrounding communities were special and worthwhile, at times I grew discouraged due to my lack of educational training in healthcare and my inability to offer more services to the patients I met there. Furthermore, I wish that I had professional medical training so that I could have further aided the doctors.

Therefore, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing would provide me a solid opportunity to become educated in using theory to conceptualize health responses. Moreover, an education from a baccalaureate program would give me a comprehensive understanding of the systematic process to provide safety, recovery, health maintenance and treatment across a wide range of healthcare settings. It would also teach me how to develop critical patient care skills and offer exposure to diverse and complex clinical experiences.

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