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The College of St. Scholastica

When Ami Khan immigrated to the USA, her language instructor told her she did not have what it took. “I can’t understand you,” they told her. Khan was born in the formerly British-colonized Sierra Leone but lived in French-speaking Guinea for many years. She lived through a war and spent seven years in refugee camps before landing in Minnesota. She found herself alone in a foreign land and had no choice but to move forward.

The transformative power of education

Khan arrived in the United States in 2005 and has been in school since, spending two decades collecting degrees and credentials to support her work, including CNA, LPN, RN, BSN and DNP. She graduated from high school before arriving in the country, but due to the war, records were unavailable, prompting her to sit for the GED. Post-DNP life will be the first time she takes a breather in years.

Her journey within the healthcare industry has not been an easy one. She started at St. Paul Technical College (now St. Paul College), earning her CNA certification. Six years later, she earned her RN license at Rasmussen College (now Rasmussen University) before earning her BSN.

As a way to immerse herself within American culture, Khan recalled watching every sitcom, not because she enjoyed the premise of the shows, but because she was so committed to learning how things were and how people talked. “Google became my best friend,” she said. “I’d type in words and hit that auditory button that could tell you how to pronounce words. I still have an accent and will have it for the rest of my life.”

Photo of Ami Khan in graduation regaliaKhan is one of the freshest Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program graduates at The College of St. Scholastica. Chosen as one of two commencement speakers this year, she accepted the role as an opportunity to share her story and inspire others to pursue their goals. In her speech, she shared the transformative power of education and its role in breaking barriers within society.

Khan owes her success and journey to St. Scholastica to God. “I never saw myself here at this point,” Khan admitted. “But I believed I was destined to be here, and that’s how He laid the path for me.”

She was drawn to St. Scholastica because of its Benedictine values, which were parallel to those that shaped her formative years. During her years in the program, she was met with an atmosphere conducive to learning and embraced these Benedictine values that she held near her heart. In addition, the school offered the BSN to DNP track, which was a good fit for her situation.

Offering compassionate healthcare

Entering the healthcare industry was an organic choice. Khan had not previously considered healthcare as a career path, but the nurse she encountered upon arrival in the country showed her how much autonomy nurses had. Khan also credits Lutheran Social Services for guiding her further towards this direction. The caseworker who assisted with integrating into society also informed Khan that the healthcare sector desperately needed help.

Ami Khan in scrubs at nursing job.Khan has been based in the cities since she was enrolled in the DNP program. She recalled waking up as early as 3 a.m. in order to make it up to Duluth for clinical rotations. That kind of schedule takes its toll, but throughout the long days and nights, Khan had her cohort to lean on. “It’s hard, it’s tedious,” she stated. “We still have a text group that we share through. We use that channel to ask questions.” Without their support, as well as that of the faculty, nursing preceptors and family, Khan believes she would not be where she is today.

According to Khan, nursing is a transformative experience for both the mind and the body. “Nursing changes you,” Khan said. “As you work with instructors, they mold your brain to not only think but act and be passionate.” Workers within the healthcare system have the opportunity to see patients and their families when they are in their most vulnerable states. Khan recognized the importance of offering grace and compassion to her patients as “they never asked to be in that position. I’ve been thrown out and called names, but they’re angry at their situations, and you happen to be their interlude between what they’re going through, so they have to let it out on someone.”

Now that she has graduated, Khan will step into a role as a nurse practitioner at Allina Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, MN. In the future, she hopes to teach and impact students the same way her instructors did her. Khan advised others who might be pursuing the same path that “It’s okay to fail. Allow yourself to fail, never give up and realize that you don’t need to be scared. You can learn your way and take your time to get where you’re going, but it is doable.”

Photo of Ami Khan speaking at commencement