KINGSTON, R.I. – May 11, 2009 – As a teenager, Martha Ofeibea-Tenkorang moved with her father and sister from Ghana to Pawtucket to rejoin her mother, who had emigrated to Rhode Island 10 years previously to continue her nursing career. As she prepares to graduate from the University of Rhode Island on May 17 with a degree in nursing, she is a giant step closer to achieving her own dream of becoming a nursing professor.
“I lived in the city in Ghana, which is not much different from the cities here, but there are a lot more opportunities here and we can achieve so much more here,” she said.
While Ofeibea-Tenkorang’s mother and older sister, Joanna, are both nurses and her younger sister, Nana, is a URI pre-med student, her desire to become a nurse stems more from the time she spent caring for her elderly grandmother and the belief that it would be a valuable subject to teach.
Throughout her URI nursing education, Ofeibea-Tenkorang held internships at Rhode Island Hospital, The Memorial Hospital, Roger Williams Hospital, and The Miriam Hospital, while also participating in clinical rotations to learn about psychiatric nursing, maternity nursing, and general medical-surgical nursing.
“All of these experiences were good simply because being around the hospital environment prepares you to be a good nurse,” she said. “I really enjoyed the exposure to the hospital setting, and just spending time with other nurses was helpful.”
The URI student was particularly moved by the time she spent working in the Intensive Care Unit at Memorial and Miriam hospitals.
“The most difficult time is when you know a patient is going to die and the family has to decide whether to let them go,” said Ofeibea-Tenkorang, who received several scholarships at URI and was inducted into the Onyx Honor Society and the Golden Key Honor Society for her academic achievements. “It is a very complex time, and very hard for the nurse to help the family decide what to do. That was a great learning moment for me, to learn what kind of things to say to the family to help them make that decision.”
Her time in the ICU also helped Ofeibea-Tenkorang decide what nursing specialty to pursue.
“I shadowed a nurse-anesthetist in the OR one day and talked to him about his job,” she said. “It’s a very technical job, which I thought would be a good fit for me. It requires an extra two years of training, but first I need to gain some experience in the ICU before going back to school.”
After becoming a nurse-anesthetist, Ofeibea-Tenkorang looks forward to becoming a nursing professor, first here in the United States and perhaps eventually in Ghana.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to become a teacher,” she said. “I remember sitting in the classroom watching the teachers and thinking it was fascinating, and that’s still my goal. Maybe someday I’ll go back to Ghana to teach nursing there.
“I still have cousins and aunties there, and my dad is probably going back. Nursing education is very different there; the education system is different, and they don’t have the same advanced technology to diagnose the complex diseases as we have here. So I can bring what I’ve learned at URI and in the hospitals here and make a difference as a nursing teacher there.”