It’s hard to write about Omonye Desire Akahome, a recent graduate of the accelerated B.S.N. program and a former member of PROUD, without mentioning how fitting her name is. Desire is so central to everything she does: her desire to learn, grow, care for others, and give back. “I want to feel elated,” she says.
What makes her feel elated? Teaching, caring for her patients, and giving back to her communities. And asking the tough questions.
Moving to the United States from Nigeria in 2013, Desire studied molecular and cellular biology to prepare for becoming a doctor. “But then I realized, I need that one-on-one experience with the patients,” says Desire. “I want to be their friend, their advocate—to know every single thing there is to know about their condition as well as who they are as a person. The holistic experience is important to me.”
The switch to nursing lit a fire under her. “I wanted to wake up in the morning excited to go to work every single day. And that’s how I feel about nursing,” she says, smiling. “The night before I hit clinical, I can’t sleep because I’m so excited. Then I’m dancing in my car, or in the elevator with my coffee. There’s that thrill in knowing what you want to do with your life, in knowing that you can make such a difference.”
Desire’s energy and enthusiasm are contagious, and her path reminds us of the many ways nurses care for others. Here are seven ways Desire is giving back.
Even with her busy schedule in the accelerated program, Desire carves out time for giving back to the community. “As a college student, I don’t have a lot of money. I believe the best thing you can give to someone is your time.”
She volunteers for hospitals, food banks, shelters, children’s shows, museums, and schools. “This is especially important when you’re going into communities where people aren’t expecting to see someone who looks like me. I ask children what their aspirations are and whether they are thinking about college. For some of them, no one has ever asked them that. I like to plant the seed—to say, Look at me! I look like you and I’m doing it. You can do it too.”
2: Educating patients
It was in clinicals that Desire realized her passion for labor and delivery. “One of the best things about labor and delivery—the part that made me fall in love with it—is the educational aspect. You see a 17-year-old mom. It’s her first baby, and she’s terrified. The doctor delivers the baby, and then the doctor is gone. Now the mom has the baby and doesn’t know about breastfeeding, diaper changes, or how to take care of the umbilical cord. That’s where nurses come in. We teach them all of these things: tell them when to come in for immunizations, about their wellness checkup, breastfeeding, pumping, diapers and clothing. And step by step, you start seeing the relief on their face. Before you know it, you’ve helped them think: you know what, maybe I can do this.”
3: Working towards patient comfort
Six months before graduating with her B.S.N. from the accelerated program, Desire was offered a job in the medical-surgical unit at Springfield Memorial Hospital starting this fall. Before even being hired, though, she was already bringing innovation to the table. “I love research, and I’m always thinking about how I can make a particular situation better,” Desire says. “I recently had a patient who had an NG tube—a tube that carries food and medicine to the stomach through the nose—in. I’ve always been drawn to NG tubes—they’re just so interesting to me. But this patient’s voice was hoarse, and she said the tube hurt. I knew there has to be another way. I looked into it, and most hospital policies say to use no anesthesia at all for inserting the tube. I realized we could use lidocaine spray. So, I wrote my evidence-based paper on it, turned it in, then mentioned the research in my interview. I asked, What is your current policy on NG tubes? I have a solution that can improve our patients’ comfort. They were excited about the idea.”
4: Pursuing workplace outreach
In addition to improving current practices, Desire is hoping to get involved in the volunteer and outreach program at Springfield. “It’s a women’s health outreach program, and I’d like to make it more active.” She’ll be working to help people in the community know about the resources available to them. “If they aren’t able to get their medication, why? If they can’t get to the hospital for treatment, why? Do they not have transportation? We’ll arrange it for them. Do they not have the funds for prescriptions? We’ll work with their insurance. Too often, they don’t know what options are out there. It’s our job to help them.”
5: Coming full circle to education
Down the road, Desire sees her love for education allowing her to circle back to the classroom. In particular, she’s interested in teaching pathology and pharmacology so she can apply her expertise in biology. “I want to get my Ph.D. and be the kind of teacher my teachers were for me,” she says. “MCN professors have office hours for their office hours. They will go over it with you until it sticks, sometimes staying here until 6 p.m. so I can get the material. I want to be that person for someone, to provide that kind of care.”
There are few black nursing faculty across the United States, too. “I never had any black professors. I loved my instructors, of course, but nursing needs more black professors and administrators. I want to be a mentor and show other people of color that they can do it.”
Desire already centers education in everything she does. Whether it’s pulling out a whiteboard marker from her jacket to help her classmates understand course material, helping a new mother adjust to breastfeeding, or mentoring young people in her local community, teaching is an essential part of how she cares for others.
6: Making future plans for global impact
Ultimately, Desire plans to extend this care back to Nigeria. “I feel like I need to go back to my roots and implement everything that I’ve learned,” she says. “When I was younger, my mom would take me to visit orphanage homes. They were so run-down. And I wondered, why?”
That question—“why?”—drives her research and her work to implement real changes in her communities.
“I want to establish my own orphanage and make sure the children have the resources they need,” she says.
This is not just a far-fetched dream; she already has a business proposal for it.
“People in Nigeria are incredibly smart, gifted, and industrious. Not everyone there has the opportunity I do. And if you give someone the chance, it’s amazing what they will do with it. I want those children to have the chances I had.”
7: The spark that lights her way
Some people are never quite sure what they want out of their career. For Desire, she will always be thankful for that spark she felt in the delivery room.
“It was the moment that I’ve been searching for all my life. I used to ask myself, When am I going to know what I want to do? There, that day in the delivery room with tears in my eyes, I thought, This. This is it. I wanted to be a nurse.” She pauses in thought, then smiles. “It takes some people their entire life to find that feeling, you know? I don’t think I would have had that experience anywhere else but here at MCN.”
Now, whatever the goal is, Desire dreams it, then she makes it happen.
“I have the spirit. I have the fire. I’m going to see it through.”
This story was originally printed as part of MCN’s 2019 Commemorative Flame Magazine. To view the full magazine, visit the Mennonite College of Nursing website.
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