Van Dam, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, found that working in a hospital environment at an early age boosted her confidence about pursuing a career in health care.
As a nursing student at Northeastern University, I knew that it was difficult for new graduates to get hired without having some experience under their belt. I was lucky enough to be part of a high school internship program at Boston Children’s Hospital that introduced teens to nursing career opportunities.
This was my first step into health care, and I found out about the training and education necessary to become a nurse. I made it my goal to complete more internships, gain skills, make important connections, and bring more to the table than a diploma when I graduated. I did a co-op on the surgical medical floor at Tufts Medical Center as a clinical assistant, and then applied again to Children’s Hospital to do my clinical pediatric rotation there and stayed for three more co-ops.
As graduation neared and it was time to take my nursing board exams, I spoke to my nurse manager about coming on permanently as a staff nurse.
It’s been a year now since I was hired full time at Children’s Hospital, and I have since completed the orientation program for newly minted RNs. I’m so glad that I set goals from the get-go and built relationships that made it possible to get a job right away in a difficult economy.
My family came over from Vietnam when I was very young, and my parents have always expected that I work hard, contribute financially, and succeed in whatever endeavor I choose. I love being a nurse and I’m glad I got an early jump-start into my career. No matter how old you are or what field you’re in, getting some early experience in the industry is always a great idea. Volunteering, internships, or shadowing professionals can be a time of discovery and navigation, when interests, passions, and strengths can be nurtured if you let yourself soak up what’s around you.
Cindy Atoji-Keene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.