There’s no arguing that Fatima Melbourne has lived an interesting life. Growing up in Tanzania, Africa, she loved creating things from the time she was young, and eventually discovered sewing. Her first career was in fashion design, and she designed clothing for the vice president and prime minister of Tanzania. “It was my dream to become a fashion designer in America,” says Fatima. In 1993, she left everything she knew to come to New York City.
A change in course
Although her fashion aspirations were what brought Fatima to the United States, a tragedy back home altered the path she took when she arrived. In Tanzania, Fatima’s oldest of three children had become very ill, and the doctor who treated her was unfamiliar with her symptoms—and unqualified to treat her, it later turned out. Fatima’s daughter died unexpectedly during treatment.
“When I came to New York, the friend I lived with was a nurse,” Fatima recalls. “We talked a lot about her patients, how rewarding she found nursing, and of course about my daughter. I could see the feelings of happiness from her. It changed my path—I decided to take the opportunity before me and started looking at nursing schools.”
Pursuing a nursing degree
Fatima relocated to Maryland and enrolled in Howard Community College’s Geriatric Nursing Assistant (GNA) program. She worked for 17 years with the geriatric population at Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, part of the Charles E. Smith Life Communities, one of the largest nonprofit elder care organizations in the country, which serves 1,100 elder adults in residences on its 38-acre campus in Rockville.
“I love working with this population and I do my best to make it comfortable for them to adapt to their new home,” says Fatima. Although she enjoyed working as a GNA, her aspirations for further education grew through the years. She returned to Howard Community College to become a Registered Nurse in 2014.
A new opportunity
After earning the RN, Fatima was transferred to the Post-Acute Care Center at Hebrew Home in early 2015. “My job is to provide people rehabilitation care to help them get back to optimum health after things like hip or knee replacements, strokes, or other accidents,” she says. Just a few months into her new role, Fatima realized that still yearned for further education. “I want to be proactive and better myself.”
Fatima started researching online universities and came across American Sentinel, where her niece was also a student. “This is a great university,” she says. “I was fearful of online education, but my niece encouraged me and told me about all of the support and resources American Sentinel offers, and she was right.” Fatima enrolled in the RN to MSN, nursing leadership and organizational management specialization in January 2016. “Working in rehabilitation, I see many opportunities for leadership. I chose this specialization because in today’s complex healthcare environment, nurses need deeper knowledge to provide the safest, highest-quality care for patients.”
Learning and growing
Fatima has enjoyed her first few courses at American Sentinel so much that she has referred four coworkers to the university as well. “I already feel I’ve gained more knowledge on how to help my patients,” says Fatima, who recently received a Shining Star accolade for investigating a patient’s symptoms further to discover critical internal bleeding, saving the patient’s life by calling in the doctor immediately. “One thing I’ve gained unexpectedly from American Sentinel is confidence. I am applying critical thinking when I work with patients and I feel more confident in my decisions.”
One day, Fatima plans to become a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner. “It’s amazing; not only has a fire been lit under me, but under my children too,” says Fatima, whose 29-year-old son, a Licensed Practical Nurse, is now working toward becoming a Registered Nurse, and 24-year-old daughter is working on her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. “My husband and children support me 100 percent. I’m so proud that they see that if their mom could do this, they can too.”
Inspired by Fatima’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing management and organizational leadership, nursing education, informatics, or infection control. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of these nursing fields. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.