Annika Tamaki

2022 - 2023 Scholarship Recipient
University of California, Los Angeles | School of Nursing

I have always been on track towards a career in the healthcare field. From a young age, I considered careers that would allow me to serve my community, such as teaching or politics, but discovered that medicine would satisfy my desire to help others, while fulfilling my interest in science. Since I was actively involved in community theater productions throughout my life and still continue this hobby, I was always encouraged to “pursue my dreams” and to go to Broadway instead of nursing school. However, people fail to realize that I am following my dream to become a nurse.

I have decided to pursue nursing because I have always been eager to help others. From being the teacher’s assistant in elementary school to actively volunteering with multiple organizations, I have demonstrated a desire to serve my community. Through my education in the UCLA School of Nursing’s Bachelors of Science in Nursing program, I have learned about the large impact that nurses can have on society. Nurses have the unique position and ability to not only provide quality care to physically heal a person, but provide emotional support during some of the highest and lowest moments of a patient’s life.

During this pandemic, I have had some unique opportunities and experiences that have helped to continually push me on my journey to become a nurse. For the past year and a half, I have worked as a remote, private tutor for middle and high school students, specializing in the subjects math, chemistry, physics, and biology. I thoroughly enjoy being able to teach students and boost their confidence in their academic abilities. I hope that later on in my nursing career, I will have the opportunity to explore education more and work as a nurse educator.

Last summer, I began working as a Substitute Paraeducator at Jessie Baker School, a local public school for students with moderate to severe special needs. After volunteering at this school since I was nine years old, I was very excited to work on campus in a new capacity, with more hands on duties. My responsibilities as a paraeducator are to provide classroom support to the students, many of whom are medically fragile and require one-on-one attention. I work primarily with students between ages 8 and 14, changing diapers, assisting with feeding, and following healthcare plans for the multiple epileptic students. My main priority is to maintain a safe, calm, and healthy classroom environment by enforcing COVID-19 protocols, maintaining clear communication with the teacher and my fellow paraeducators, and de-escalating emotional and sometimes violent students. Although I worked in a school and not a hospital, I believe that the nature of this job is very similar to a nurse’s and helped to further encourage me down this path. I have gained invaluable experience and knowledge from this position, and developed important skills for working with children.

Even though I am still considering labor and delivery, if I decide to enter pediatrics, I know I want to specialize in providing care to children with disabilities. I have continued to work there on breaks from school and am looking forward to returning to campus this June for the summer school session. Even after another year in this pandemic, I have not been discouraged from becoming a nurse. In fact, I have been inspired by the continual efforts of nurses to protect, heal, and serve their community in these trying times. As society starts to (hopefully) enter a post-pandemic era and discover a new normal, I hope to serve the people in my community, like the nurses before me.