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Scholar Spotlight: Mariyam Arifova

Mariyam Arifova is a first year BSN student. During winter quarter in 2020, she traveled to Japan as part of the Keio University Short-Term Nursing and Medical Care Studies Program to learn about challenges of an aging society. UW students attending the program were supported by the Center for Global Health Nursing and the de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging.

All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Find all scholar spotlight interviews here.

Why did you choose nursing?

When I was in middle school, my mom was very sick. Home visit nurses used to come every day. I saw exactly what the nurses did and watched them with curiosity. That was when I first became interested in this profession. At that time, I was a kid and wanted to be a nurse just for my mom. Growing up, I learned more about my religion’s morality and realized that since all people are creatures of God, I have to love and help everybody.

In high school, I was deciding between nursing and being an interpreter, as I was passionate about learning new languages and using the three languages that I spoke. I went to Kazakhstan to visit my aunt and four cousins, who were also nurses, and they told me a lot about nursing. They inspired me to fulfill my childhood dream.

I’m also passionate about biology — human anatomy is my favorite class — and I like to work with people, so nursing is the best fit for me.

How has your experience at nursing helped with your career trajectory?

I am learning all the essential knowledge and skills that a nurse needs to work in the world. I’m very excited about my future clinicals, and the BSN rural immersion program in Montesano that I am participating in this summer. I am sure these new experiences will open up new nursing paths that I may get interested in.

What’s been an unforgettable experience during your time at the school of nursing?

The school of nursing provides a lot of opportunities for the students to find their path in nursing. I was very fortunate to go to Tokyo, Japan, for Keio University’s 2020 Short Term Nursing and Medical Care Program to learn about and discuss challenges for an aging society. I studied Japan’s aging population, went to the robocare center, did home nursing visits, shadowed nurses in Keio Hospital, and learned about nursing home models present in Japan. The experience gave me a lot of new ideas, skills, and knowledge that I will apply in my future nursing career and increased my interest in aging.

What interested you about this program?

I am a CNA in a nursing home, and I enjoy working with older adults. My goal is to run my own nursing home. Japan has a growing elderly population and high life expectancy, so I thought I could learn something from them to implement in my nursing home model.

Why are you interested in healthy aging?

As a CNA, I really it enjoy when I see the grateful faces of my residents and see how they appreciate me for being their caregiver. I also love building meaningful relationships with my residents. They share a lot of personal stories, and I learn from their life experience. Each shift, I make a difference in their daily lives. That inspires me to serve older adults as a future nurse.

Why do you want to start your own nursing home?

I feel like there are some changes that I can make to the nursing home models in the United States to improve them. First of all, I want to emphasize post-stroke patients because I personally know the challenges that stroke patients and their families face. My father had a stroke two years ago, and my grandmother passed away after her third stroke a couple of months ago. I also believe by incorporating elements from care models in other countries with an aging population, like Japan, I can provide better preventive care. I would also like to import technology and equipment that makes caring for the elderly safer and more effective.

What was the most interesting experience of your trip?

I went to Japan hoping to see how they use robots in healthcare. And I was very lucky to actually go to a robocare center and see patients using the technology for rehabilitation and communication. There are robots that can help people who lost function in their legs after strokes or other diseases move their legs so they can learn to walk again. They also have an assist suit to help caregivers, like CNAs, lift patients without hurting their back, or to help patients who are unable to stand up or sit down by themselves. I was fortunate to actually try it. I lifted different weights while wearing the assist suit and without it – it definitely helped me lift heavy weights easily.

Did anything surprise you while you were there?

We had nursing students from Japan, the UK, and South Korea. One difference that surprised me is that physical restraint, limiting the freedom of movement of patients, is illegal in the UK, but allowed in Japan, South Korea, and US. In the UK only sedatives are allowed to control movement or behavior of a patient. After discussing ethical concerns and fundamental human rights with the mental health nurses from the UK, I realized that physical restraint alternatives might be a better way to provide safe and quality care.

What was the most interesting thing you learned?

A new model of nursing home. They have nursing homes where residents live together with caregivers and the caregiver’s families. It was interesting because I had never seen a nursing home like that. They showed us videos of older adult residents cooking traditional food together with small kids and teaching them. I think it can be an ideal approach to aging for some older adults because it has a home environment and the assistance that a typical nursing home provides.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to spend a few years of my nursing career as a travel nurse. My main goal is to work and volunteer in rural areas of both the USA and third world countries, caring for underserved populations and improving nursing care. After that, I want to work with older adults and eventually run my own nursing home. I want to get a graduate degree from UW, but I have not decided yet if I want to go straight to grad school or work for a few years and come back.