Men in Nursing: A Refugee's Story

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Men in Nursing: A Refugee's Story

Tai Phung's Commencement Address from CSU, Fullerton School of Nursing

By Tai Phung, RN, MSN
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Tai Phung was a young child when his family fled war-torn Vietnam. Today, he is an MSN-prepared nurse who manages a staff of 120 at Kindred Hospital. The following is the commencement address he gave at the CSU, Fullerton School of Nursing graduation in June.

In 1979, a combination of international policy, war, hope and destiny converged, creating an inevitable circumstance where my family and 700 other refugees escaped from communist Vietnam on a wooden boat that was not made for an ocean voyage.

We risked our lives and left behind our grandma, who was too frail to flee with us. We, the “boat people,” clung on to our unfading dream of freedom and opportunity, which sustained us through the most dangerous journey. Out in the vast ocean, our boat drifted helplessly and pirates came and robbed us. We were abandoned to perish, but miraculously, we were saved and brought to a refugee camp in Thailand.

A year later, my family was transplanted to Des Moines, Iowa, for acculturation. I did not speak a word of English, but as a curious boy, I was determined to explore, discover and assimilate into the new American way of life. From this experience, I learned determination, resilience and appreciation for another chance to live life.

I later ended up at Cal Poly Pomona, where I majored in business. I became the first generation in my family to obtain a college education. A month before my graduation, my mom had a major hemorrhagic stroke and became a quadriplegic. I had to skip my commencement ceremony and went back home to care for her. Out of this experience, I became interested in disease prevention and health promotion. I eventually changed my career and became a man in nursing.

Today, I am honored and thankful to have another chance to be in a commencement with all of you. It took nine years for me to obtain my LVN, RN and MSN. Likewise, all of you have demonstrated determination, resilience, sacrifice, hard work, and lifelong learning to reach your dreams of becoming future BSN- and MSN-prepared nurses.

Our country’s increasing demand for healthcare services needs educated nurses like you to provide nursing leadership; evidence-based research and education; high-quality, safe patient care; and adequate access to healthcare. The landmark 2010 Institute of Medicine report gave a charge to nursing to increase [the number of] RNs with BSNs to 80 percent and double the number of doctoral degrees by 2020. As nursing graduates, you are qualified and positioned to practice to the full extent of your education and training and be full partners in redesigning healthcare in the U.S. You are graduating today to ensure [that] your personal dream and the national IOM goals for nursing will be achieved.

Christopher Reeve, who played Superman, a refugee from the planet Krypton, said, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”

It is inevitable that you and I are destined to gather here today to celebrate our proud achievement: attaining our own American dream. 

Tai Phung, RN, MSN, is a manager in med-surg and ICU at Kindred Hospital in Santa Ana. He also serves on the board for the American Academy for Men in Nursing (AAMN). For further information about the organization or to become a mentor, please visit www.aamn.org.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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