Spotlight is On: Key Nguyen ’21

By Health Professions Interest Group Leader Maggi Davis, ’21

We have amazing students at the University of Vermont who get involved in wonderful organizations. This week we’d like to introduce you to Key Nguyen, a senior Nursing major currently applying to graduate programs. This interview gives an insight into the flexibility of the nursing profession.

Campus Involvement:

Key is actively involved both on and off campus. In his first few years at UVM, he held leadership positions as a student senator in the Student Government Association and as a Resident Advisor. He used this time to develop more of his soft skills, like leadership and communication, and to gain strong connections on campus before diving into the nursing curriculum. Junior year, clinical rotations begin, and Key slowed down on his campus involvement to focus on academics. He is currently a student leader for SGA, the President of the Boulder Honor Society, and a student representative for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences Dean search committee. He wishes there were more than 24 hours in a day so he could be even more involved!

Converse Home:

Key started working for a local nursing home, The Converse Home, his sophomore year. He is a patient care assistant, working 25 hours a week to help support his family. Key feels fortunate to have had an early start into patient care, as many nursing majors don’t dive into this until junior year. He took Health Assessment (one of the first nursing-related classes) at the same time he started working at the Converse Home. Key was trained well and picked up a lot of skills as he went. He says he loves working at the Converse Home because of the great team and leadership.

Gerontology Interest:

Gerontology has always been Key’s area of interest and was the reason he applied to nursing school in the first place. He says he connects easily with older adults , and attributes some of this to his culture. Key is originally from Vietnam and was taught from a young age to venerate older adults. Throughout his life, caring for older adults has defined him, and helped him feel comfortable quickly in his role at The Converse Home. Communicating and interacting with the geriatric population comes naturally to Key, and because of this, he greatly enjoys his work at the nursing home.

Advice for younger nursing majors:

Key’s advice for younger nursing students is to start to get involved and to communicate with upperclass peers. To urge younger students to reach out, he says, “We are not that scary, and we love talking to underclassmen students and give advice to help them out.” He hopes first and second year students will be more proactive about asking juniors and seniors about the interesting opportunities they have had on their journeys. He also says it is a good idea to plan ahead. He feels it was an advantage to start working with patients way before starting clinicals in the hospital. This helped him have patient communication and assistance skills in his back pocket, so when he was in the hospital for clinicals, he only had to worry about the more technical skills he was learning. He says younger students do not have to wait to get to the hospital to start learning these communication skills, so start reaching out for opportunities!

Future Career Goals:

Key is currently in the process of applying to graduate programs, and has been working on his personal statement. He has gotten help with his applications from the pre-health advisor, Cara Calvelli, and from the UVM Writing Center. He is applying to Adult and Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner programs. This will allow him to focus on more preventative care for anyone 13 years or older. He says this is relevant to his minor in Behavioral Change Health Studies from the Larner College of Medicine. He believes the future of health care will be outside the hospital, and more focused on keeping people healthy and away from hospitals. After becoming a nurse practitioner, Key hopes to get a doctoral degree to hold a higher leadership position. His focus is also to help people from underserved communities, and more specifically, from immigrant or refugee communities. As an immigrant himself, he has a closer tie to some of the injustices within the US healthcare system, and he wants to dedicate his future work to change that. He wants to serve the people he holds close to his heart, who have similar backgrounds. Key also would like to move toward the political aspect of healthcare after gaining clinical experiences. Because a lot of change in healthcare starts at a federal level, Key wants to start tackling these changes from a legislative aspect. Key says his future career goals may change in the future, but he is open to change. This is something nurses are very good at, being flexible to changing however they need to in order to provide the best care.

DNP vs MD:

A DNP is a Doctorate in Nursing Practice that prepares students to become nurse practitioners (NP). An NP has similar responsibilities to a medical doctor. However, there are many important distinctions between the two. There is some confusion about the titles, since NPs are nurses who hold doctoral degrees. A DNP follows the nursing model for care, which is a more holistic approach to care that incorporates the whole person. The MD pathway uses the medical model, which is focused on disease processes and treatments. Both are necessary for patient care, but Key Nguyen identifies more with the nursing process. The DNP provides the opportunity for him to learn about both the clinical and leadership aspects of nursing care.

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