Starting a career in global health can be intimidating. It’s a diverse field that evolves quickly and demands collaboration across disciplines, from finance to supply chain and logistics, to computer programming.

Each month we ask a seasoned colleague to share advice for those interested in forging a career in global health. This month we asked Nurse Educator Medie Jesena to discuss her path to working with PIH's Rwandan sister oganization. 

Originally, I had no desire to be a nurse. My heart was set on becoming an architect, but when my family emigrated from the Philippines to the U.S., my father encouraged me to pursue nursing. It was a practical career choice and would provide a stable income. I was reluctant at first, but 17 years later, I have grown to love my career and have no regrets.

I have worked as a nurse and nurse practitioner in a variety of pediatric clinical settings in the U.S. and have taught nurses and nursing students. These experiences, those gleaned during volunteer trips overseas, my public health education, and having grown up in a developing country, have all contributed to my decision to move to Rwanda, where I now work as a nurse educator with PIH/IMB.

When health care providers are skilled, knowledgeable, and passionate about their work, our patients have better outcomes.

I LOVE learning and teaching. The most rewarding moments are when I see my Rwandan colleagues get so excited about learning new skills and concepts that they could not help but share their newfound knowledge with their peers. When health care providers are skilled, knowledgeable, and passionate about their work, our patients have better outcomes. This is what we strive for in everything we do, especially with very young patients whose clinical outcomes affect the course of their and their families’ lives.

Working in a radically different cultural and clinical setting from what I have grown accustomed to, I constantly struggle with my own impatience. But the more I learn from my Rwandan colleagues about their worldview and the challenges they face, the more I understand that my role here is not to impose my own ideas of how things should be done, but to support them in their goals and efforts to improve their practice.

For anyone interested in global health nursing, my advice is to prepare academically, professionally, and, not least of all, mentally. To start, it is important to know yourself, your capabilities and limitations, and where your rewards and happiness lie. If you are willing to open yourself up to the new and challenging experiences that come with global health, the work is pretty darn rewarding!