Soon, Amma Sarfo will begin a journey that most everyone in her family has already undertaken. Her mother. Her father. Her brother and older sisters before her. It isn’t uncommon for families to share traditions or even career paths, but for the Sarfo family, caring for others is more than a shared interest.
It’s what they do.
A psychology undergrad, Sarfo began her journey into nursing after a period of self-reflection.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field, but I came to the conclusion that medicine wasn’t for me,” she said. “I cared more about forming a relationship with my patients, getting to know them, advocating for them. That steered me toward nursing.”
Sarfo’s mother, Jayne, graduates Dec. 17, 2018 with a nursing degree from Florida State College at Jacksonville. Her eldest sister, Christabel, will graduate from Purdue University Global with a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree in May 2019. Given her family’s inclination, Sarfo’s decision to go into nursing seemed almost inevitable.
“This program has really amazing faculty,” she said. “They’re all very passionate about success.”
“It’s very important for minority patients to feel like they’re represented in health care.”
But she wasn’t the only member of her family to fall in love with the College of Nursing.
Her father, Robert, a Nurse Administrator at the East Central Regional Hospital, graduated with his PhD in Nursing in May 2018. Her brother, Kojo, an instructor in the college’s Department of Biobehavioral Nursing, will follow in their father’s footsteps in May 2019 when he graduates with a Doctor of Nursing Practice-Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (DNP-PMHNP) degree. Her sister, Akosua, is also slated to graduate in 2020 with a DNP-Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (DNP-AGACNP) degree. When classes or lessons overlapped, the family studied together, pulling all-nighters and cramming for tests.
“I think what made us all want to go into nursing is our love for health care policy, our love for health care in general, and the chance to provide health care to marginalized communities,” Sarfo said.
The latter point is especially dear to her.
In her first semester in the CNL program, Sarfo was paired up with a minority mentor. She credits that mentorship, created as part of a $1.9 million grant awarded to Dr. Pamela Cook in 2017 to fund the college’s Nursing Workforce Diversity Program, as one of the things that helped her succeed in the program. Later she earned the honor of being a mentor for new minority students entering the program as well. Working in a field often criticized for a lack of diversity, Sarfo said programs that encourage and train minorities to pursue health care professions are more valuable than ever.
“It’s very important for minority patients to feel like they’re represented in health care,” she said. “Sometimes the subtle nuances of having someone of your same culture explaining to you what’s wrong, or how we can help, can make all the difference.”
It could also change the trajectory of a child’s life.
“It’s important for little children of minority groups that we see, to see us in these positions and know that they can have that intrinsic motivation to aspire to where we are,” Sarfo said. “It’s inspirational to see people of all colors, beliefs and ethnicities in the health care field so that every patient can feel some kind of connection to their career.”
To that end, the college paid for Sarfo to attend the 46th annual Black Nurses Association Institute and Conference in St. Louis in August.
“That was the highlight of my time in the program,” she said. “Seeing so many minority nurses making such great strides in the field, to be in the presence of such accomplished nurses and to form those professional connections was amazing.”
In light of all she’s learned and experienced, the memory that first sprang to mind for Sarfo when asked about her time in the CNL program was her first blood draw. Students in the program are introduced to health care gradually over the course of 16 months, learning fundamentals and nursing theory as they progress. They move swiftly from performing simple tasks like taking a patient’s vitals in the earliest weeks of the program to performing physical assessments and giving meds as time progresses. The high point of that learning curve is drawing blood from a real, live patient.
A good blood draw is a mundane experience for patient and provider alike, but even the most seasoned health care providers fear getting one wrong.
Sarfo said when she landed hers on the first try, she felt herself light up.
“You never forget your first successful blood draw or IV placement,” she said. “I was excited, my patient was excited because it didn’t hurt. It kind of reminds you why you wanted to be a nurse.”
That reason, for Sarfo and her fellow nurses in the CNL program, is to connect with patients to form meaningful patient-to-nurse, human-to-human relationships.
“We have faculty that always remind us to treat the patient and not the illness,” she said. “Your patient is not their illness; they just have that illness for a time. Patients have physical and mental needs and being able to recognize them for the people they are is an important aspect of nursing.”
Sarfo credits her family, her friends and her time in the program with helping her to become the student, and the nurse, she is today. But one faculty member in particular she credits with giving her the pride to see herself as a nurse.
“Montana Dunton did our pediatric clinical one day, and I think what stuck with me was the confidence she instilled in us,” she said. “It’s one thing to learn from class, but when you go into the clinical environment and have a preceptor who imbues you with confidence, the courage to know you can do a blood draw on a 5-year-old and that you’re going to get it, is beyond words.”
As for graduation, Sarfo said she’s just taking it easy. She likes the idea of working in an operating room, but a career in nursing anesthesia also sounds good. Regardless of where she ends up, though, one thing is certain: She’ll make a difference.
It’s what her family does.