Junior Rhea Rughani entered the SPU nursing program so she could have a chance to positively impact people’s lives in the future.
“I just kind of gravitated towards the sciences, and I also wanted to enter a helping profession. I knew that service was important to me and something that my family always talked about like, ‘What are you doing in your life to help others and serve others?’ is just a big question they always asked,” Rughani said.
Rughani began attending SPU mainly because of its proximity to her family, as well as the connections she knew she would be able to make through the nursing program. Since high school, she has spent time trying to map out her life and establish goals so she has a clear picture of where she wants to go during and after her time at SPU.
“I settled on SPU because it was a small school, and I knew I’d be able to develop close relationships with faculty. Then the nursing program was also something that, of course, SPU was known for and has great relationships with community partners,” Rughani said. “I always imagined myself at the bedside or working in a hospital or clinic.”
Helping people and making changes in the field of healthcare is something that Rughani is passionate about, however, the pandemic has also changed her perspective on how she can do that.
The combination of isolation, health concerns and reminders of the necessities of health care brought her plans into perspective. She was given the chance to reevaluate where she was taking her life in the medical field.
“It was almost naive of me to expect that my life would just be mapped out when I planned out my life in high school,” Rughani said. “[The pandemic has] been a good moment for me to be a bit more introspective and be like, ‘okay, why was I thinking like that and why was I expecting everything to go like so directionally?’”
Living in the midst of a pandemic has shifted life into a new light for Rughani.
“It’s definitely been a remarkable time in my life that I’ll remember as being very formative for me. I just came in thinking that one person can really make a change, and I wanted to be that one person, but now, seeing everything that’s happened with COVID, I’ve seen that it requires so much more than just one person,” Rughani said. “I think it’s kind of redefined my career ambition in the sense that I want to do something bigger than myself.”
Barriers in access to healthcare for some races and socioeconomic groups have been brought into Rughani’s focus. While these problems already existed, the pandemic has highlighted these issues even more.
Rather than being satisfied with being a bedside nurse, Rughani now wants to take her career a step further by possibly integrating more social and political issues into where she works.
“I’ve been really interested in looking at all the social determinants of health, like, what impacts who gets access to healthcare and why,” Rughani explained. “So it’s all these big topics that I know that I can’t just change by being a bedside nurse, but that does drive me to continue to further my education and maybe go into more of the administrative or political science side [of healthcare] to make healthcare reform.”
Rughani has yet to figure out what exactly her future will look like, but COVID has adjusted her mindset in regards to how she approaches change.
“I think in some ways COVID has taught me how to roll with like ebbs and flows and just kind of continue not having, maybe, such a strict plan,” Rughani said. “And that’s so much bigger than any one career trajectory, so as long as I’m working towards that in some way, that’s something that I can get behind and keep working towards.”
Rughani is still working to stay encouraged during this reevaluation process, but she has been able to find inspiration to keep working for change.
“I was kind of caught in that thinking where I was like, ‘What is the point of continuing on this path because so many people don’t believe in medicine,’” Rughani said. “But I think you have to find ways to keep yourself inspired and look for the good. So, looking at frontline workers for me and seeing them model what it looks like to continue on in the face of adversity has inspired me to continue.”