A Transformative Path from Navy Corpsman to Compassionate Nurse

November 3, 2023

Jeffrey Kai receiving certificate

Jeffrey V. Kai, BSN, RN., a 2023 graduate of the Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) program and a member of the United States Navy Reserves, stands as a testament to the remarkable journeys that individuals can undertake in pursuit of their dreams. Graduating as the recipient of GW Nursing's Class of 2023 Paul Tschudi Memorial Scholarship Character Award, Jeffrey reflects on his transformative path from a dedicated Navy Corpsman to a compassionate Registered Nurse in Virginia.

A Calling Rooted in Service

With 11 years of service as an active duty Navy Corpsman, Jeffrey understood the ultimate purpose of always being present to provide care to others. Rising from a junior Sailor to a Hospital Corpsman Petty Officer First Class, he always found ways to extend a helping hand and offer support to those in need. “My inspiration was fueled by my mother and my upbringing,” said Jeffrey. “She taught me to always show goodness and generosity to others at every opportunity.” Jeffrey's strong desire to continue enhancing his patient care abilities, coupled with his extensive healthcare experience, led him to make the significant decision to leave active military service and pursue his dream as a full-time student at GW.

The GW Nursing Community

What makes Jeffrey's story even more inspiring is his connection to GW Nursing. Many of his closest friends from his time in the Navy were students at GW, and they played an instrumental role in guiding and mentoring him towards this profoundly rewarding path. Grateful to alumni Jeunesse Garces and Bernadette Romero-Wong, he recalls their invaluable assistance and advice. “They eased my worries during the application process, reassuring me about GW Nursing's commitment to recognizing my educational history, military service, and healthcare leadership experience.” With a top-notch Veterans BSN initiative, GW Nursing became the automatic top choice for his BSN degree. Jeffrey highlights GW's well-deserved reputation as one of the "Best Colleges for Veterans," with unwavering support from both the School of Nursing and the Military and Veterans Services (MVS) office, making it a community he is privileged to be part of.

Jeffrey Kai at graduation

Memories that Resonate

Jeffrey's journey at GW is dotted with memorable interactions with fellow students, faculty, clinical instructors, fellow nurses, and, most importantly, the patients he had the privilege to care for. One particular experience etched into his nursing school journey was his clinical placement at the DC Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center – Mental Health clinic. Here, he met and cared for fellow veterans, and this experience was a profound honor. Jeffrey gleaned invaluable insights from their stories, experiences, and challenges, which further fueled his duty to serving his fellow service members, veterans, and their families. He is eager to give back to the military community that has shaped him into the strong and compassionate person he is today.

Resilience and Innovation

Jeffrey acknowledges that his military experience has contributed significantly to his successes in his nursing career. He brings to nursing a unique blend of resilience and innovation, qualities that enabled him to overcome the toughest of situations. His unwavering determination and indomitable spirit, honed through years of service to the nation and its people, now serve as his guiding principles in nursing. For Jeffrey, "Our patients are the mission," a twist on a familiar military slogan, represents his deep responsibility and promise in his nursing practice.

“We, as nurses, should not only advocate for our patients’ health, but for our own as well, and champion the health of our nursing profession.”

Challenges in Nursing

One of the most significant challenges nursing faces today is the shortage of nursing staff. This scarcity not only affects healthcare access and outcomes for the country's patient population, but also places immense strain on the well-being and morale of existing nurses. Despite these challenges, nurses persevere, advocating for their patients, families, and communities. “We, as nurses, should not only advocate for our patients’ health,” said Jeffrey, “but for our own as well, and champion the health of our nursing profession.”

Words of Wisdom

In closing, as a new graduate nurse, Jeffrey offers heartfelt advice to those currently pursuing nursing and future nursing students. He encourages them to discover the essence of service in helping others, extending compassion and empathy not only towards patients, but also to colleagues. In the demanding journey of nursing school, caring for peers and giving their best in every opportunity sets the groundwork for becoming exceptional nurses. But, Jeffrey emphasizes, they must not forget to take care of themselves; self-care is just as crucial. “Your well-being matters just as much. So, in this challenging but incredibly rewarding profession, stay true to your values and, above all, stay kind,” he said. “It’s that combination of service and selflessness that makes you not just a nurse, but an outstanding one!”