Kim Oanh Kazim came to the United States at the age of seven in 1975 after the fall of Saigon. Although the experience could have been traumatizing, to Kim, it was an adventure. She lived in Arkansas for three years before her family moved to Houston, Texas, where she’s lived ever since.
“It was probably junior year of high school that the idea of working in health care caught my attention,” says Kim, whose grandmother was hospitalized around that time. “I remember seeing great nurses as well as some who weren’t as caring. It made me think, ‘I want to be a nurse.’ And it wasn’t just to care for patients, but their families as well. I envisioned myself as someone who would become a compassionate caregiver like so many of the nurses who cared for my grandmother.”
Off to college, starting her career
Kim completed her nursing prerequisites at Houston Community College, then transferred to Prairie View A&M University, graduating in 1992. She joined St. Joseph Medical Center as a part-time cashier in the gift shop before a director gave her an opportunity to become a Nurse Aide. After graduating, she moved out of state and joined Osteopathic Medical Center as a staff nurse on the medical-surgical floor before returning to Houston—and St. Joseph—in 1998.
Opportunities to grow
Kim worked in medical-surgical at St. Joseph’s until her director noticed her propensity to keep taking on new responsibilities. When opportunities opened up for Kim to become interim director in the skilled nursing unit and rehab unit, and later, a nurse manager in the Transitional Care Unit, she jumped at them. For 10 years, Kim was the minimum data set (MDS) coordinator at St. Joseph. “I just enjoyed trying new things, helping my directors where they needed me,” she says.
Eventually, Kim was encouraged to apply for a case management position. “I like being able to help patients move from the hospital to placement in rehabilitation or skilled nursing,” she says. “I like getting things together for the patient, making things happen, then transitioning them to home, where they belong.”
MD Anderson Cancer Center
In 2015, a former colleague of Kim’s who had moved to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center encouraged her to check out an opening for a case manager. “I’d been at St. Joseph for 20+ years so at first I couldn’t imagine it, but realized I should think about what else is out there,” she says. She applied, interviewed and was hired for the role. “I like MD Anderson because it is a place that values patient interaction. They want you to be active with patients and understand what they need.”
Pushed toward further education
At MD Anderson, Kim was encouraged to go back to school for a master’s degree—something she had been wanting to do for many years. But with seven children and a full-time job, she never saw how it could be feasible. “A few colleagues and I decided to go back together, and I learned about American Sentinel University from them,” she says. “My employer generously helps with tuition and I was so impressed by what I learned about the MSN program and the flexibility of online learning.”
Big plans for the future
Kim earned the MSN case management specialization in April 2019. She hopes that the degree will equip her to continue in her case management career and improve patient outcomes at MD Anderson. She’s making plans to establish a professional association for Vietnamese case managers. Kim recently became an Accredited Case Manager.
Overall, Kim says, the MSN was worth the effort. “I know an MSN will help me advance my career,” she says. “It is a commitment, but it can be done. You can work full time and have a life, and you can afford it. If I did it, others can too. Above all, I couldn’t have done this without the grace of God and the support of my coworkers, friends and family.”
Inspired by Kim’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, infection control, or case management. 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.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.