Student view:

Ani Kazanjian: Joining the front lines as an ICU nurse

May 8, 2020

Fourth-year College of Human Medicine student Ani Kazanjian is using her previous nursing degree to help fight COVID-19 as an ICU nurse at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I have never believed in sitting on the sidelines. From the time I was young, I watched the chaotic world around me and realized there was so much that needed to be done, and not enough people jumping in to help.

I was drawn to nursing as a career path, especially when the opportunity came for me to study on a Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship. I was excited to learn medical skills and also have the chance to travel and help those in most need around the world.

After graduation and completion of officer basic training, I was assigned to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to work directly with the Wounded Warriors, service members who had been injured in areas of conflict around the world. 

My work in the military was much more a service than a job or even a career. I was grateful for the education and training I had received and wanted to give back to those who needed the expertise I had gained.

However, while I loved being able to care for my patients as a nurse, I began to desire seeking further training to become a doctor and be able to practice medicine independently.

I chose to attend Michigan State University College of Human Medicine because of their mission to educate service-oriented physicians, prepared to identify and care for the needs of the medically underserved. Their mission to cultivate humanistic physicians perfectly aligns with my own goals, and I am honored every day to work alongside peers who are devoted to creating a society that values providing health care access for all.

At the start of 2020, I was excited to begin seeing the results of my last four years of hard work. I was looking forward to participating in rotations in my desired medical specialty, prepare my residency application and present the results of research projects I have spent years working on.

COVID-19 has changed virtually every plan. However, my career, education and values made the choice to return to the hospital as a nurse in a COVID-19 intensive care unit an easy decision. When the College of Human Medicine wisely closed the doors to in-person student training, I realized I could spend my time focused on myself and my own frustrations, or, I could go look for ways to help once again.

Being on the frontlines of the pandemic is challenging, inspiring, overwhelming and life-changing. I have used every technical skill I have learned over the years, giving every ounce of energy I have to care for my patients.

Sometimes, what I have to give is enough and sometimes it is not. The intense joy of each patient that is safely extubated is tempered by the grief of watching others lose their battle. Not being able to save everyone drives me and my colleagues to work even harder the next shift.

So far, 2020 has been radically different than I anticipated and the opportunities to help may look different than I expected. However, I am still dedicated to the foundational goal of my career in health care – to serve others.