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What Women in Medicine Month means for this refugee nurse

Posted at 9:50 PM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-24 23:50:56-04

TWIN FALLS — September marks Women in Medicine Month, and 2017 studies conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges show that males still have a handle on the workforce in doctor and physician positions. However, these numbers also show that more women are currently enrolled in medical school, helping lessen a gender gap in the future.

The significance of Women in Medicine Month means a lot to Isabel Rutazihana, a refugee nurse who arrived in California in 2007 with her parents from the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape an ongoing conflict. The initial culture shock to the US was initially very overwhelming. Having to adapt to schooling, US customs, employment, and even driving was a lot to take in.

"The culture like as a kid, how kids viewed their parents, how parents viewed their kids, employment, everything was just totally different," said Isabel.

Despite always having the dream of becoming a doctor, she had put it aside until witnessing her mother take of a woman whose family had abandoned her. Isabel said, "I saw how much love that my mom gave to her and how much joy it brought to her. It made me feel I do want to work in something that actually brings joy to people's lives."

Isabel arrived in Twin in 2018, where she balanced school, a new family, and working as a nursing assistant at St. Luke's Magic Valley. After years of hard work, Isabel graduated from school this past December. Still, due to COVID and other personal reasons, she delayed taking her NCLEX exam, which would make her a fully registered and certified nurse. However, just recently, she finally managed to take the exam.

Isabel said, "I pushed my NCLEX a little bit farther and farther, and I finally took it about a week and a half ago, and I passed, so I'm officially a nurse!"

Isabel's long journey has been a lot, having to manage school, work, and taking care of her child. In some instances, she would miss out on helping her son with homework, tucking him in at night, and having to sacrifice quality time with her husband. However, despite her sacrifices, she attributes her success in completing school to the sacrifices her family made, and that they were the driving force to achieve her goals.

"Right now, my son can say, "Oh! My mom is a nurse, and she works at the hospital," and when he says it, I feel very proud because I accomplished something," said Isabel.

For Isabel, Women in Medicine Month means the world as it signifies women blazing their own path in a challenging field of work, "It kind of shows that as women we're not just homemakers or do secretary work and we can actually go into the field with men and can actually do."

Isabel views her becoming a nurse as just a stepping stone in her career and hopes to accomplish more in the future.