Nursing

Why Did You Become a Nurse

April 07, 2017 by Cindy O'Dell
Jacinta Aernan

Jacinta Aernan (second from left) and her fellow Shot@Life Champions during a recent visit to Washington and the Capitol.

On World Health Day, Brandman nursing student has global perspective

Brandman University’s nursing students come from around the globe to add new skills to their nursing practices. In honor of World Health Day, we’re profiling Jacinta Aernan, whose work is already making an impact internationally. Born and raised in Nigeria, Aernan switched to nursing after a career in diplomacy. She couldn’t ignore what she considers her true calling or the words of her father, who was also a nurse: “When your heart is in it, you would not even know how many hours you are working or how much you are doing.”

Aernan is on schedule to complete her Doctorate of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) this spring with an emphasis on a psychiatric and mental health.  “I feel the urge and the need to look into the mental health situation in Africa, Nigeria in particular and the Tiv people to be precise,” she said. Aernan is an acute psych RN for Riverside University Health System and Community Hospital in San Bernardino.

Her goals include finding a sustained solution for providing better care for patients with mental illness, advocating for people with mental illness and focusing on how mental health relates to diabolic practices in Tivland (Nigeria).  Here’s what she had to say about nursing and what becoming a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner will mean to her.

What made you decide to pursue an advanced degree in nursing?

Nursing is a very fascinating profession and contributes to the aspect of human existence. The need for nursing continues to grow; as people are living longer, their need for medical attention also continues to grow. Coming from a culture where health care is a luxury, I understand what it is not to have better care, and most importantly to have nurses who care. I want to make a difference in people’s lives through caring and compassion.

My taste and compassion for the sick propelled me into nursing, to learn how to constructively intervene in ways that would bring about desired positive results to patients. My younger sister died prematurely in Africa due to lack of proper medical attention. I know that I have only scratched the surface of nursing and an advanced degree will give me the opportunity to learn and explore more ways to help people. By pursuing an advanced degree, I will have more in-depth understanding of nursing and learn better ways to help people utilizing my nursing skills.

How does having an advanced degree change your role as a nurse?

Jacinta Aernan (far left) with some Brandman DNP classmates.

Jacinta Aernan (far left) with some Brandman DNP classmates.

It is imperative that we combine formal education and loving care to make good nurses. Florence Nightingale had both.  As we advance in our journey of nursing, it is important that we keep this in mind so as to give the best care to our patients. Having an advanced degree will also equip me with the tools to be a better advocate.

Being a nurse isn’t for everyone. What drew you to it?

As a young girl growing up. I always knew that I would become a nurse; this was because I loved to take care of people. I also had a loving father who was a nurse, and he always jokingly called me his assistant, because I would always want to go to work with him or help him out when he was giving simple first aid treatment to our neighbors.  I was always fascinated by how he helped treat people and how their faces would light up when he finished or spoke softly to them while he was treating them. All I wanted was to be like him.

Jacinta Aernan as a baby. She was born in Nigeria.

Jacinta Aernan as a baby. She was born in Nigeria.

One thing he would always say to me was “being a nurse is not just a job, or a profession, but a calling.” He said that nursing is a call to serve humanity, to help in some small ways alleviate the pains and trials of their illness. He also said that it takes more than just the desire to help others, that it takes love, compassion and education. This means if one has the desire to help but has no love, compassion and dedication, then the work is meaningless.  My father made me see the joy in serving others and how much more rewarding it is to give. This I have come to realize in my career several years after his passing, that there is nothing more heartwarming than to see a smile on the face of a patient that you have helped. All that matters to me is the opportunity to make my patient smile and when I achieve this I know I have done my job well. Becoming a nurse is a decision that I have never and would never regret.

What do you wish more people knew about nurses?

We get the divine opportunity to meet and interact with different people and are invited into their lives to share or to be part of their journey of life at the particular stage when they need us. These people deserve individuals who are well educated and informed, capable of providing evident based care, loving, caring and self-assured and walking that journey with them. Yes, there are good days and bad days, days of laughter and days of tears, but I am exactly where I want to be, doing what I believe I was put on this earth to do, making in my little way a positive impact in the society using my skills and personal attributes given to me by God.

One needs to be informed and educated so as to be able to provide evidence-based care. Compassion and care alone are not enough to make a good nurse, just as education alone is not enough to make a good nurse.

What made you choose Brandman University to continue your education?

It is one thing to acquire education and another to be educated where diversity is valued and quality upheld. When I embarked on this journey, I wanted the best, and in my quest for the best school, I found the Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing at Brandman University to have student-centered learning approach. Above all, I was drawn to the mission statement of the university, which is to provide students with excellence and flexibility, coupled with the vision and purpose to evolve adult learning and help students accomplish their dreams. Brandman University has met and exceeded my expectations.

Can you explain how Brandman exceeded your expectations?

Jacinta Aernan with some of classmates in a lighter moment during an immersion session in Irvine.

Jacinta Aernan with some of her classmates in a lighter moment during an immersion session in Irvine.

Both the faculty and staff members have been very supportive in every way, manifesting their core values in action. Students are accorded the same respect and dignity regardless of their cultural background, color, gender or religion.  Brandman encourages “innovation and welcomes viable ideas,” collaboration and teamwork. I have personally received support from the faculty members, staff and most importantly the dean of the school of nursing Dr. Tyke Hanisch. She has an open-door policy and is always welcoming students, with or without prior appointment to her office. Through Bradman, I had the opportunity visit Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to advocate for Shot@Life with our elected official. That is an issue dear to my heart. This is something I probably would have not done on my own if not for Brandman University. Brandman continues to promote success and uphold quality.

World Health Day
Friday, April 7, is World Health Day. This year’s theme is “Depression, let’s talk.” Because of nurses like Jacinta Aernan, people around the world are gaining access to the health care they need, including the prevention and treatment of depression.

Don’t take your health for granted
If Jacinta Aernan could give just one piece of advice to people about their health it would be to take it seriously. “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer and promote overall health. Aspirations and desires cannot be met without a healthy life. We definitely have to place our decisions on the scale of priority.”

Shot@Life
Shot@Life is a United Nations Foundation program dedicated to raising awareness about life-saving immunizations. Jacinta Aernan recently joined other Shot@Life Champions in Washington, D.C., learning to build relationships with elected officials and how to get the word out about advocacy and events designed to build the case for global vaccines.

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