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Student Spotlight

July 2012 Stellar Student - Maichou Lor: Emerging Nurse Leader

Meet Maichou Lor: a Bilingual, Bicultural Early Entry Nursing Doctoral Student enrolled at the University of Wisconsin –Madison School of Nursing.  Maichou represents our next generation of nurse leaders, ready to enrich the nursing workforce in Wisconsin and prepared to address recommendations from national leaders on the “Future of Nursing.” It is with great pleasure that we share her story.

Maichou beams with pride and energy in describing her educational journey and successes in her pursuit of a PhD.  She wants to investigate how to improve culturally competent nursing care for older adults, but is not waiting for her PhD graduation to address this issue.  She has already explored how cultural beliefs could contribute to health care disparities between the Hmong and other populations.  As an honors undergraduate student, Maichou studied Hmong women’s views and practices of breast and cervical cancer screening.  She found that Hmong women had misperceptions about such screening, reported lack of culturally sensitive care and poor translation services, and sometimes were embarrassed to seek such exams.  

Maichou’s research has been selected to share at regional and national meetings.  As a follow-up to her undergraduate study, she developed teaching tools to use with Hmong women in the community and to inform them of the importance of cancer screenings. Her teaching project was chosen to receive a Kaufmann Entrepreneur Scholarship Grant to conduct community health education workshops. She has achieved all of these milestones as an undergraduate. 

Her PhD program will involve studying such topics as what nurses and elders perceive as culturally competent care.  With findings from studies such as this, Maichou would be positioned to teach cultural competence to nursing students and practicing nurses as well as to pursue further grants to reduce disparities in healthcare. “I know how important it is for patients and families to feel connected to their healthcare providers, to trust those guiding their health and making difficult decisions. If clinicians understood their patients’ cultural practices and beliefs, then clinicians could be less likely to make negative judgments about their patients when they enter the health care system.  The Hmong have only been in the United States for a relatively short time. We have much to learn about living in the US and healthcare providers have so much to learn about us as a people, a community.”

As I interview Maichou, I quickly find myself in the middle of her story, and wonder about her beginning connections to becoming a nurse. Maichou simply states “I was always a nurse. I grew up being the interpreter for my family and my community for their healthcare visits. Taking care of my family and community has been a big part of my life. I have become their advocate for their health and wellbeing. Family and community is number one to me.”

Other events helped shape Maichou’s academic pursuits. During High School, Maichou completed a Certified Nursing Assistant course. Through her clinical experiences she found she had a good connection with elders. Her parents have encouraged her to seek education. “I am a first generation college student in my family. My parents saw in me a good fit with who I am and becoming a nurse. They have always been behind me in fulfilling my dream”.

She has had many experiences caring for older adults during undergraduate clinical experiences and she is currently working as a registered nurse in a long-term care setting. She has witnessed older adults’ many healthcare needs. She has noted the complex care of older adults from medication management, chronic illness maintenance, to daily safety and prevention of complications. She easily recognizes the vital role of nursing in caring for this vulnerable population. She has recently become the caregiver for her great uncle who has experienced strokes.  As she cares for her family, she knows that the best care requires special knowledge, including cultural competence. The quest for ensuring cultural competence in nursing care has been planted firmly in her.

As a first generation college student, Maichou has experienced the hardships and uncertainties of academic success. She is grateful to a pre-college program she attended as an introduction to college studies and college life. Her advice to other nursing students is to find academic and social support from academic mentors and upper classmen.  She and an undergraduate have formed a Multicultural Nursing Student Organization to help students from under-represented groups be successful in reaching graduation and beyond in the workforce.  Maichou also has a dedicated interest in promoting diversity in the nursing profession and despite her incredibly busy schedule, has found time to be a contributing member of the WCN Diversity Task Force.

Maichou is smiling as I leave her. I am too...she represents the hope for the Future of Nursing.

Submitted by:
Teri Vega-Stromberg, MSN, RN, AOCN, ACHPN
WCN Board of Directors

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