URI nursing student relies on drive, positive personality to succeed, fight chronic pancreatitis

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42-year-old Pawtucket resident works part-time as dialysis assistant

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 15, 2015 — Kai Younger stands out at the University of Rhode Island’s College of Nursing for many reasons. The 42-year-old full-time student has a part-time job at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Providence and she’s a “big sister to many of her younger classmates and is vice president of the Multi-Cultural Student Nurses Association.

And she has also been fighting chronic pancreatitis for most of her working life. It’s an inflammatory condition that does not heal or improve—and it eventually impairs a patient’s ability to digest food and make pancreatic hormones.

But daily challenges don’t dull her desire to succeed, positive attitude or ever-present smile. Younger hopes to be selected for a new procedure developed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to treat the disease. In the meantime she also has a bucket list and has recently checked off a few items — attending a Janet Jackson concert and buying a new car. A trip to Key West is next on the list.

Younger is technically a senior but, but is a junior in the College of Nursing at URI because of course requirements.

It took her several years to get to URI, but she said, “Age is not really very important. There is a huge mix of ages in the College of Nursing.”

She is grateful and happy to have been given the opportunity to obtain a bachelor of science in nursing. As her career advances, Younger sees herself becoming a leader in the field.

Throughout her work history, Younger has dealt with many patients and critical situations and is “calm under pressure.” She works part time for the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Providence as a dialysis technician. In fact, it was her work there that earned her a scholarship from the veterans’ agency to attend URI.

“College is my full -time job now, but I work for the VA on vacations and during the summer,” said Younger, who will owe three years of service to the VA when she graduates. “It is great. I have an automatic job when I graduate and the opportunity to float and become well versed in many areas of nursing at the VA.”

In dealing with her illness, the Pawtucket resident said she has more good days than bad .She lives with 2 rescue ferrets and 2 new Bichon Frise puppies that she affectionately calls “her dream dogs”.

Younger’s other interests are sewing, drawing, painting, crochet and playing the clarinet. She also serves on the URI Diversity Committee.

“I love working with other students and helping them deal with stressful situations where her previous work experience comes in handy,” Younger said.

She said she is well prepared for emergencies and that can be an example for other students.

“But I still have a lot to learn and will work hard to develop my nursing skills,” Younger said.

She is fascinated with the brain and the important role optimism plays in a patient’s recovery.

And Younger looks forward to working in pediatric oncology because she will be able to empathize with her patients and their parents because of her own struggles in dealing with a chronic disease.

URI photo by Rick Wilson.