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"My dream is to have a health care system with a real school of nursing – like the VCU School of Nursing."

Ana Diallo’s first impressions of nursing convinced her that it was a field she would never enter.

Growing up in Guinea, Africa, Diallo, a senior in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Nursing, was frequently in and out of local hospitals with family members who needed care. She saw nurses who were only there to help prepare patients for the doctors and rarely had the skills to treat patients.

“Nurses in Guinea don’t have as much power as the nurses here,” she said.

Diallo also witnessed a health care system that wasn’t centered on the needs of patients. Without insurance and the resources and skills needed to offer modern care, many patients die of diseases that are easily prevented and treated in the U.S.

“You don’t hear a lot about chronic diseases, because people don’t know how to deal with them,” Diallo said. “I lived for 19 years in a country where cholera is an epidemic and people are dying from it every year. It’s only when I came to VCU that I found out there is a vaccine against cholera.”

However, she knew she wanted to help people and make a difference. After shadowing Cuban nurses in Chad, Africa, who had more independence and influence at the hospital, she discovered that medical school wasn’t her only option. Diallo later enrolled in VCU’s traditional Bachelor of Science in nursing program, where she also had the opportunity to get hands-on experience in a variety of settings.

“I volunteered at Johnston-Willis Hospital and at CrossOver Health Center,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to have this comparison between Johnston-Willis, where everything is set up and you have this perfect hospital, and CrossOver, where they just have to work with the resources they have.”

Diallo has her sights set on combining her nursing degree with graduate education in public health and health administration. She hopes to return to developing countries to improve the access to health care and training for providers.

“My dream is to have a health care system with a real school of nursing – like the VCU School of Nursing,” she said. “Education is a big part of what is lacking and nurses are very needed there.”

In the meantime, Diallo says she continues to fall more in love with nursing school at VCU.

“I know the other side of nursing,” she said. “Here there’s a health care system that responds to the patient’s needs and takes care of them. I know that I have this opportunity, this chance, that many people don’t have back home, so I enjoy it more and don’t take it for granted.”

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