As a child in Kenya, Gideon Nyakundi learned his ABCs by scrawling the letters in the sand using sticks.
Pencils and books, he said, were luxuries only available to teachers.
Never stifled by this humble beginning, Nyakundi will graduate Saturday, Jan. 14 with a B.S. in Healthcare and Human Services and Management from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Simultaneously, he is employed full time as a certified biomedical technician, is working toward his master’s degree, has developed a program for optimizing hospital staff and workloads, and is being published nationally (in the Online Journal of Ethics in Nursing) for his findings.
Nyakundi will cross the Saint Mary’s commencement stage along with 250 other adult learners this winter. He is one of three students who will share a reflection story during two commencement ceremonies Saturday at Saint Mary’s Twin Cities Campus in Minneapolis.
Yet, even as he obtains his bachelor’s degree, Nyakundi is already working toward his master’s. He credits Saint Mary’s for supporting and molding him on his path to becoming a healthcare leader.
The first step in his journey included earning a two-year biomedical technician degree from a local technical college, which led to a position at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis. As a certified biomedical technician, he spends his workday repairing and maintaining simple to complex equipment and machines, such as ultrasound and anesthesia machines and neonatal incubators, and offering support to the modern patient monitoring telemetry system. His ability to work on complex equipment, because of his extensive continued training, made Nyakundi a sought-after employee. But he lacked one thing—a bachelor’s degree.
“My experience and education laid the groundwork for my career here, but I needed a bachelor’s degree to move up in the organization,” Nyakundi said.
When researching graduate schools, Nyakundi said he examined cost, time commitment, convenience, and graduation rate, as well as the school’s learning atmosphere. “Saint Mary’s stood out,” he said. “When I looked at the degree courses to suit my healthcare profession and steer me toward leadership, the bachelor’s in Healthcare and Human Services Management program fit perfectly.”
Nyakundi said he is fortunate to work for an organization that values education. As an added bonus, Nyakundi receives a 10 percent discount because HCMC and Saint Mary’s have a corporate partnership, he explained.
For his capstone workplace internship project, HCMC asked Nyakundi to develop a program for optimizing hospital staff and workloads. Using two software programs, Nyakundi is tracking the hours worked by individuals in different departments and evaluating how much was completed during that time. He is using the data to determine where the hospital is understaffed and overworked.
The hospital will be able to use his results to make decisions about hiring extra staff, redistributing resources, or offering work-life balance opportunities. This pilot project, titled “Capacity and Demand,” will eventually be implemented throughout the hospital.
“I will use the project management and communication skills I’ve learned in class to train the department managers to use the new program,” he said.
Nyakundi began working on his master’s degree during the last semester of his bachelor’s completion program. The M.A. in Health and Human Services Administration program is further developing his project management and communication skills, among other things.
“The evening courses have worked well with all my work and family obligations and I’m learning new things that will help me be a leader,” Nyakundi said.
“Our degree programs are designed for busy working adults—and our professors are working professionals in the field of healthcare who bring real-world perspectives into the classroom,” said Susan Jarosak, program director and assistant dean of the Graduate School of Health and Human Services. “And so do the students—just ask Gideon Nyakundi.”