Nancy Pin’s mother, who survived the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and went on to become a midwife there, inspired her daughter to go into nursing.
“That genocide inspired her to grow up and help people by working in the health field,” Pin says. “With so much death around her, she wanted to help people with the amazing experience of the start of life.”
Pin has always known that she wanted to go into health care, too, thanks to her mother’s stories. Growing up in Salem, New Hampshire, she enrolled in a vocational program at Salem High School that helped her become a licensed nursing assistant.
She earned her clinical hours at Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital – which hired her as soon as she passed her exams.
“The best thing about working in a rehab hospital is that you see patients at their absolute worst, but by the end of their stay, they’re a completely different person,” she says. “Being able to be with them throughout that process is a really great experience.”
Pin worked at Northeast Rehab in Salem for three years, while embarking on her nursing studies at UMass Lowell. She says she chose UML after a tour that included the state-of-the-art nursing simulation labs. She also felt comfortable here.
Her first year, she lived in HEALL, the Health Education Academic Living Learning Community. She says it provided great academic and social support, introducing her to students in all of the health sciences disciplines, who were also taking the same, fundamental first-year class: Human Anatomy and Physiology.
“HEALL had posters everywhere, and ‘Anatomy Jeopardy,’ and random social gatherings,” she says. “It was really fun just to meet people.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the nursing simulation labs became a vital resource for Pin and the other junior nursing majors earning their clinical hours. Most in-person sites were closed to the students – until Lowell General Hospital opened a mass vaccination clinic. Then, Clinical Instructor Diana McAuliffe arranged to have the students run a vaccination station there. Pin went as often as her schedule allowed, happy to work with real patients.
“We had given intramuscular deltoid shots in simulation, but this was the first time we’d given it to a real person,” she says. “I was nervous, but I felt like I was very comfortable with my professor there – that if anything went wrong, she would help me.
“What really made it not nerve-wracking was the patients. They were so nice, so friendly, and just really excited to get their shot, so being able to do that for them was really nice,” she says.
Outside of academics, Pin is an avid volleyball player. She played on her high school varsity team and on the women’s intramural team here. She even practiced with the men’s club volleyball team.
Pin also plays and coaches younger children with the Boston Hurricanes, a nonprofit that offers volleyball and basketball programs for Asian Americans in the Boston area. The Hurricanes are part of a loose network of pan-Asian American volleyball organizations based in Chinatowns across the U.S. and Canada. Once a year, they all come together for a tournament.
“Its purpose is to provide people of Asian ethnicity with a community where they can have common ground and share lifelong connections – and share a love of volleyball,” she says. “I especially find that this community is good to fall back on now, when there are so many hate crimes against Asian Americans.”
Her junior year at UML, Pin was accepted into the family nurse practitioner master’s degree program, New England’s oldest, and began taking her first graduate courses under the bachelor’s-to-master’s program. Those classes will count toward both degrees.
“What really inspired me to become a family nurse practitioner is that I have a great relationship with my family care doctor,” Pin says. “She has seen me through all of my milestones growing up, and I want to be able to help my patients have that same kind of relationship.”
Ultimately, Pin hopes to work in a community like Lowell with a large Southeast Asian population. While she doesn’t speak Khmer fluently, she understands it.
“I would love to be able to help with people like Cambodians, because I understand their struggles. I’d like to help them with navigating through life, to give them the resources to help them reach their potential through prevention, patient education and early intervention,” she says. “If I can help prevent hospitalizations and catch things early in life, that can help the community.”