Growing up, Natasha’s grandmother was a medical assistant in Seattle’s Central District. “She was someone that everyone in the neighborhood could count on,” she says. “They came to her with everything—scrapes, cuts, ear infections—and she always knew what to do.”
Although this would later inspire Natasha’s own career, the earlier part of her life was consumed with meeting her immediate survival needs. The question of “What do I want to be when I grow up?“ wasn’t even on her radar, Natasha says. “For a long time I’d just been surviving. I never had enough space and security to think of my dreams. All I thought about was how I had to get housing and get a job”
As time went on, Natasha’s situation became more stable and she started to think about her future. She began asking her grandmother questions about how she got into the medical field, and decided to get her associates degree to become a medical assistant herself. During her training she realized that becoming a nurse was what she really wanted. The prerequisites for an RN program were intimidating, but Natasha told herself, “If you’re going to go for it, you’ve got to go all in.”
She applied to the BSN program at Western Washington University, and immediately started applying for scholarships—including one from WWIN. She was doubtful that she’d be awarded a WWIN scholarship due to the large number of applicants. When she got the email congratulating her on her scholarship, she was thrilled.
With school underway and her finances handled, her nursing program was going well. Then one day she got the gut wrenching news that her mother had suddenly passed away. It was an enormous challenge to keep her academics and her job afloat while absorbing this news. And she was next of kin, which meant she was responsible for her mother’s burial and funeral arrangements. The realities of the associated costs were going to completely drain her savings account and leave her with no cushion.
Natasha was moved by the support she received as she navigated this difficult time. “My work colleagues rallied around me and helped me, as well as a few good friends. And WWIN offered to help me with some of my bills so I wouldn’t have to deplete my savings,” she says.
Natasha is currently a nurse in Oncology Med Surg at Evergreen hospital. But with COVID-19 units have been consolidated to include critical care overflow plus care for post-surgical, psychiatric, and other patients. She’s getting more variety than ever before, and getting a crash course in delivering different types of care.
She’s also participating in Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, as well as a diversity committee at the hospital. She says this has given her perspective on the mistrust of the healthcare system among different communities, and that it feels good to be involved. “I want to be part of that conversation and part of that change,” she says.
As one of the few women of color in her department, she appreciates how recent Black Lives Matter protests have brought more conversations about people of color in the workplace. But she has also felt the division among her own team, and at times has left work feeling hurt and discouraged. She stresses the importance of diversity in healthcare. “Representation matters. People feel more comfortable when someone looks like them or they think they can do it too,” she says.
To any woman who’s considering applying for a WWIN scholarship, Natasha says this: “The only advice I can give is do it. Put forth that effort. It takes a lot of vulnerability to share your story and your needs and the barriers you face. It’s always worth it because it’s going to help you elevate yourself and educate yourself and it will help other people who have a story like yours.”
And to the WWIN donors: “Every little bit helps. And it makes a big impact, it really does. You’re helping someone accomplish their dreams and accomplish something they never thought they could. Never in a million years did I think I’d be on the other side able to help. It’s a ripple effect.”