Path to nursing paved by firsthand experiences

Warda Hussein in cap and gown

Warda Hussein says two events put her on the path to nursing. The first occurred when as a worried 14-year-old whose mother was headed to surgery, a nurse ensured that Hussein could visit her mother before she was taken to the operating room and that her mother had a scarf to cover her head while in a patient gown. 

“The nurse asked if there was anything she could do to make me comfortable and to make sure our religious practices were respected,” says Hussein. “Only after I reflected on it years later did I realize how profound it was,” says Hussein.

The second event occurred her freshman year as a pre-med student majoring in biology at the University of Minnesota. While shadowing an obstetrician, she had the opportunity to observe a patient from Myanmar, who needed an interpreter, have a baby. ”Although I was there to shadow the doctor, I found myself watching the nurse instead,” says Hussein, who was impressed that the nurse made sure the woman understood what was happening.

“She looked at the patient to ask questions rather than the interpreter, which I know can be difficult sometimes, as I come from a community where languages are spoken outside of English,” says Hussein. “As a daughter of Somali immigrants, I grew up hearing from family about how they didn’t feel heard or understood when they went to the clinic or hospital. Sometimes the language barrier became too great for them to receive care that they felt was adequate—not by any fault of the medical system but just that there was that gap. So I became dedicated to making people feel heard regardless of who they were or where they came from. It was both fascinating and validating to see that dedication and action from that nurse.”

Now, as a recent graduate of the Master of Nursing program, Hussein says her time as a nursing student only reinforced that she's on the right path. The rigorous, 16-month program was challenging, but she felt supported and encouraged.

As a nursing student, Hussein found her niche in pediatric critical care. She spent her capstone in her last semester completing 200 hours on the neonatal intensive care unit at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. “I really fell in love with pediatrics and neonatal care,” says Hussein. She enjoyed including family in care and learned the importance of communicating with them—from explaining the beeps and pumps to answering their questions.

For two months she provided care to one baby with significant medical needs, learning his schedule, his meds, and other needs to meet his goals for the day. “Babies can’t talk, so I learned to pay close attention to his body language,” she says. “I really got to know him and understand his care.” 

Ultimately, the baby passed away. The experience left her questioning if critical care, where deaths can be more common, was the right specialty for her. “After I cried and talked about it, I realized that I really can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.

After graduating in December 2022, Hussein began her first nursing position at Children's Minnesota hospital's pediatric intensive care unit. “I am looking forward to the variety and age ranges,” Hussein says. “I’m really excited to learn care at different developmental levels.”

Long term, she has her eye on earning a doctoral degree and becoming faculty so she can be there for students the way faculty were there for her as a student. But for now, her focus is on becoming a critical care nurse. 

“As I nurse, I finally reach my goal of helping people,” she says.