Giving back: Community-minded nurse brings special commitment to care

  Sadio Aar

Sadio Aar

For Fairview nurse Sadio Aar, the financial support of the Nursing Diversity Initiative is not only enabling her to obtain her BSN, but also leading her to care for community health with new insight.

Sadio Aar immigrated from Somalia to the United States as an eight-year-old refugee. As a young child, Aar grew up in an underserved community and the importance of giving back was taught early on.

“I remember going to the community center after school to help younger kids with their homework, helping the elders with reading their mail, interpreting for people over the phone whose phone or electricity was cut off, and many more things,” Aar reflected.

closing the financial gap

Aar became an RN in January 2017 after graduating with her associate's degree from St. Catherine University in December 2016. She took a semester off between her RN and BSN degrees to find a nursing job as a new graduate and save money to pay for tuition out-of-pocket. Aar maxed out on her financial aid assistance in her previous degrees and was unable to qualify for additional aid. For the past 11 months, Aar has worked at Fairview Southdale Hospital.

Minnesota is currently battling two major workforce challenges: Minnesota employers lack qualified applicants for jobs in high demand, and Minnesota has one of the widest opportunity gaps in the nation for people of color, with a significant portion of the population facing unemployment and underemployment. To tackle these challenges, the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership has developed a career laddering approach to streamline health care workforce pathways.

The Nursing Diversity Initiative is part of this approach, and supports diverse two-year degree RN nurses from the Central Corridor to earn BSN degrees by providing financial aid and onboarding training. Fewer persons of color obtain four-year BSN degrees than two-year degrees, yet there is a strong national push from the Institute of Medicine for hospitals to have at least 80% of their nursing staff to hold BSN degrees by 2020. More than half of the projected health care job openings in the Central Corridor over the next five years are nursing jobs. 

Thanks to funding from the Otto Bremer Trust, the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership is helping support diverse 2-year RN nurses pursue RN to BSN programs at partner universities.

investing more and giving back

After hearing about the Nursing Diversity Initiative through an email her supervisor sent out to the team, Aar returned to St. Catherine to pursue her BSN. As a student with previous degrees, Aar is currently paying off student loans while attempting to pay out-of-pocket for the BSN program. Aar works 72 hours biweekly and regularly picks up extra shifts to pay for tuition.

"Sadio has been a part of the Fairview Southdale Station 88 team since March of 2017," said Allison Stratton, Aar's manager.

"We were impressed by Sadio’s commitment to serving others as shared about her previous work serving the community, and in her role as a social worker prior to completing her nursing degree. She is a wonderful asset to our team as she comes with a smile on her face every day and has a graceful presence. She cares for her patients and family members with the utmost respect. Her patients truly adore her kindness, compassion, and knowledge at the bed side." 

Aar feels that the Nursing Diversity Initiative has allowed her to cut down on her hours at work and invest more time in school and giving back to the community to enhance her nursing education.

“The Initiative will allow me to utilize all the opportunities the BSN program has to offer,” Aar noted. “It will maximize my education by being able to do more reflective learning and implementing new knowledge and skills that I gain into my daily nursing practice.”

BSN and Community health

While Aar earns her BSN degree, she also plans on completing her public health nurse certification.

“My overall goal in obtaining my BSN degree is to first and foremost give back to the underserved communities,” Aar stated. “I plan on doing this through community outreach and public health education. I also plan on applying the skills and knowledge I gain through my BSN program in my daily practice of nursing and implementing more mindfulness and reflective nursing in my daily practice.”

Aar believes that obtaining her BSN degree and becoming a public health certified nurse will give her the opportunity to work with community members in a different capacity.

“I believe that those who are closest to the problems and who have a deeper understanding of what specific community health disparities are have a better understanding of what solutions are needed to bring about systemic changes to those communities,” Aar explained.

new perspective on health disparities

As a first-generation immigrant who grew up in poverty and comes from a community with significant health disparities, Aar believes it is her responsibility to utilize the knowledge and skills she gains through the BSN program to give back to the community. She plans to use her BSN degree to work at the community level with patients and their families and advocate for bridging the health disparities gap.

A BSN degree will allow Aar to develop a new way of thinking as a bedside nurse by implementing evidence-based-practices into her daily nursing practice.

It would empower me to better advocate for my patients and their families and help me develop better teamwork skills that encouraged collaborative and continuity of care between members of the healthcare team,” Aar commented.

Outside of school and work, Aar enjoys serving the community in her spare time - whether it is helping an immigrant fill out applications, helping a student with their homework, or connecting individuals with resources that promote stability. Aar enjoys listening to their hopes and dream and hearing about their journeys that brought them to where they are now. In addition, Aar enjoys spending time with family and friends as well as partaking in some of her hobbies including traveling, nature, hiking, watching movies, and drinking coffee over a nice conversation.

 

 

 

C3 Fellow Pursues Dream to be a Nurse

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     Tekle in the Christensen Center at Augsburg University

Tekle in the Christensen Center at Augsburg University

For Dawit Tekle, climbing up the “nursing ladder” has been a dream years in the making.  His journey has taken him from Eritrea to Minneapolis, from MCTC to Region’s Hospital, and now, through the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership’s Nursing Initiative, to Augsburg University.

Born in Eritrea, Tekle immigrated with his family from Kenya to the U.S. in 2010.   His family came to Minnesota seeking job opportunities and a new life. “After finishing high school in Africa, there weren’t many opportunities,” reflected Tekle. “Minnesota is definitely a good place for jobs and education.”

Once he had settled in Minnesota, Tekle knew he wanted to be a nurse. “I wanted to have a career,” he stated. “As an RN, you can get a job anywhere and it pays well, but the bottom line is that I just want to help people.”

 

Inspired and Supported

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Tekle was studying for his RN degree at MCTC when he learned about the opportunity to become a Central Corridor College (C3) Fellow.  He recalls the inspiration and power of supportive resources provided to him as a C3 Fellow. “We had workshops once a month,” he recalled.  “And it seemed like they brought people from hospitals nearly every week to tell us what they were looking for.” 

Regions Hospital hired Tekle as a nursing assistant through the C3 Fellows program as he completed his studies at MCTC. Then this summer, important news came his way.

 

Valuable Email

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Tekle received an employee email from Regions announcing CCAP’s new Nursing Initiative and offering financial support to cover nearly two-thirds of the cost of getting his BSN degree. He applied as soon as he read the email and was selected for the program. Tekle is now attending Augsburg University part-time and working full-time as a nurse at Regions. Combined with Regions’ tuition reimbursement program, a grant from the Otto Bremer Trust is supporting an initial cohort of 16 Central Corridor residents to pursue their BSN degrees. Health care partners and the foundation see this nursing initiative as one important step in building health careers pathways that enable greater regional prosperity and equity.

 

Building a More Diverse Nursing Workforce

Minnesota is currently battling two major workforce challenges: Minnesota employers lack qualified applicants for jobs in high demand, and Minnesota has one of the widest opportunity gaps in the nation for people of color, with a significant portion of the population facing unemployment and underemployment. To tackle these challenges, the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership has developed a career laddering approach to streamline health care workforce pathways.  Scrubs Camps offer high school students a summer camp exposure to a vision of college and a health care career.  The C3 Fellows program offers college students an opportunity to find work in the field of study to gain critical experience. 

The Nursing Initiative supports diverse two-year degree RN nurses from the Central Corridor to earn BSN degrees by providing financial aid and onboarding training.  Fewer persons of color obtain four-year BSN degrees than two-year degrees, yet there is a strong national push from the  Institute of Medicine for hospitals to have at least 80% of their nursing staff to hold BSN degrees by 2020.  More than half of the projected health care job openings in the Central Corridor over the next five years are nursing jobs.   

 

Better Outcomes for Everyone

Health care employers are eager to invest in these pathways because they know that a more local, diverse and culturally competent workforce will contribute to better health care outcomes. For Dawit Tekle, the sky is the limit. He believes that obtaining his BSN degree will bring him more income and greater job security. 

 “The first thing that hospitals ask when you apply is if you have your BSN degree,” said Tekle. “I’m young -- I have time and motivation to pursue a BSN.  My goal is to finish my BSN and see how it goes, then possibly go on to get a master’s degree and become a nurse practitioner.” 

Envisioning Health Care Careers at Saint Paul College Scrubs Camp

Creating Health Care Career Pathways

Nearly 100 high school students participated in Scrubs Camp at Saint Paul College the last week of July. Conducted in partnership with HealthForce Minnesota, Scrubs Camp was supported by Regions, Fairview, and HealthEast, anchor institution members of the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership (CCAP). These partners share a goal of achieving better local health outcomes, improved educational achievement, and increased household incomes by developing a more diverse, local workforce.

 

Scrubs Camp Activities: From Stem Cells to Aging Bodies

Throughout the week, students participated in blocks of activities that introduced them to different areas of health care. “I’m starting to think about college and careers and I think Scrubs Camp will help me explore careers in health care and see if it’s something I’d like to do,” said one Scrubs Camp participant.

Day two of the week-long camp saw students rotating through activities including the placebo effect, aging suits, a pathogen outbreak, stem cells, and simulation bus and van.

Sabrina Hemmerling, Pharmacy Technician Instructor at Saint Paul College, taught camp participants about the placebo effect. Students made their own placebo capsules in addition to designing their own drugs.

 In the aging suits block led by Melissa Miller, students were introduced to geriatrics by experiencing the physical effects of aging. Students dressed up in the aging suits and were given everyday tasks such as picking something up off the ground and going up and down the stairs.

"Aging suits was fun,” said a Scrubs Camp participant. “We put on this outfit and it hurt my back and actually made me feel old.”

Using the scientific method, students identified pathogens over a course of activities as part of a case study presented by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Scrubs Camp students learned about all the activities that go on at MDH, from restaurant inspection to infectious disease monitoring. Students also had the opportunity to swab an item of their choice, such as a cell phone or the bottom of their shoe, to see how much bacteria grew within a day.

Randy Daughters from the University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute discussed regenerative medicine, the uses of stem cells, and stem cell research using model organisms. Students learned about the ability of some organisms to regenerate limbs, tails, and even hearts. Using tadpoles, students regenerated tails over the course of about two days. In addition, students engaged in an in-vitro fertilization activity to obtain embryonic stem cells from an African clawed frog.

Dual-degree holder Daughters shared his academic path with students. “You’re here to explore different health care careers,” said Daughters. “At one point I was there. I remember it being fun, but not knowing what I was going to do. Dual degrees are designed to train people to investigate different things that come into the clinic and essentially advance the science, so you’re doing the research and doing the clinical work.”

 

Training Like a Healthcare Professional

The Ridgewater Simulation Bus (SimLab L1), a mobile lab with high-tech simulation equipment, allowed students to participate in a customized training scenario. SimLab L1 features a mock emergency/patient care room, birthing simulator, pediatric training simulator, and Laerdal SimMan 3G, a state-of-the-art patient simulator that displays neurological and physiological symptoms. In the Children’s Simulation Van, students diagnosed a four-year-old patient with pneumonia and trouble breathing. They experienced what it is like to administer a sedative and paralytic and also inserted a breathing tube. Students also delivered a mannequin baby during a birth simulation.

"The Children’s simulator felt real,” commented one of the Scrubs Camp participants. “It made me want to be an EMT."

 

Health Care Career Exploration

On the final day of camp, students reflected on how the week’s activities influenced their interest in the medical field. “I’m not sure if I want to work in the healthcare field yet, but I am considering it,”said Parker, a Scrubs Camp participant. “My favorite part of the camp was the ‘Jobs Now’ block because we got to learn about all the careers in healthcare,” said another student.

The variety of blocks helped spark students’ interest in specific medical fields. “I’m not sure if I want to work in health care, but if I were to work in the field, I would want to do stem cell research,” commented camp participant Justin.

Camp participant Sulekha knows she wants to be in the medical field. “I want to be an OBGYN, so I liked getting to deliver a mannequin baby,” said Sulekha.

The “Nursing Skills” block allowed camp participant Hto to gain exposure to the field. “We got to take blood pressure and learn about other things nurses do on the job,” Hto exclaimed.

 

The Next Generation of Health Care Professionals

The sixth annual Scrubs Camp at Saint Paul College closed with student peer award nominations and closing remarks from camp director Sharon Blomgren. “The 36 employers involved in making this camp a possibility are hopeful that you are going to be their employees in the next five to ten years,” noted Blomgren. Students left camp with more than their certificates of completion. They gained valuable professional connections with local health care employers that, for some students, can serve as a gateway into future health care careers.