Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) 2021 Nursing graduate, Dalia Ampiah, has traveled further than most for her dreams. Her desire to make an impact on others while building a good life for herself has carried her from the Republic of Ghana to the State of New Jersey; and she is not done yet.
Ampiah knew from an early age that she wanted to help others. Despite demonstrating a strong interest and ability in her high school sciences classes, she was considering a career in law – until an experience at summer camp steered her in a new direction.
“In church camp back in Ghana, I had a friend who became ill," Ampiah recounted. “She was so sick, so I stayed with her, got her cleaned up and took care of her. After she finally recovered, she was so grateful. She kept saying: 'Dalia, not everyone can do this.' Since then, I've felt I have more to offer in the medical field."
Ampiah was studying Biochemistry at the University of Ghana when the opportunity to come to the United States arose. After a brief stay in Oklahoma, she relocated to Pennsauken, N.J., to be close to her uncle and cousin.
“The United States is a country of opportunity, so that is why I came here," she said. “It's a good opportunity to be educated in the United States. A good opportunity to start fresh."
In the fall of 2016, Ampiah registered for classes at RCSJ soon after moving to the state. By 2018 she had earned her associate degree in Biological Sciences, along with a 4.0 GPA and a spot on the President's List. She had also honed-in on a more specific career goal: Ampiah wanted to become a nurse, and she knew exactly where she should start.
“I always want the best for myself and for everyone around me," she admitted with a smile. “Rowan College of South Jersey has the top-ranking of any nursing school, and I heard it was a rigorous program. From other testimonials, I've heard that most of the nurses that come out of RCSJ are very good. Wherever I go, I want the best. That's why I chose RCSJ."
RCSJ's Associate in Nursing program has been ranked the top nursing program in New Jersey for five, consecutive years. In 2020, the program expanded its reputation across state lines, earning the distinction of being ranked #2 in the Northeast Region. The College's faculty and staff, state-of-the-art nursing and healthcare facilities, and dedicated skills and tutoring center, along with their strong relationship with clinical partners including Inspira, Jefferson, Cooper and Virtua, produce graduates as comfortable in a healthcare environment as they are in the classroom.
“Since the early 1970s, graduates of our Nursing & Health Professions programs have made a positive impact on those in their care. Oftentimes, we hear stories of lives that have been touched both locally and nationally by our graduates – now more so than ever before," remarked Dr. Susan Hall, dean of Nursing & Health Professions. “The nursing programs at RCSJ are always evolving to enable this College to train healthcare professionals who are fully equipped with the contemporary knowledge and skills required to meet the needs of the community."
The Nursing program proved a perfect fit for Ampiah. She enjoyed her classes, taught by instructors experienced in field with lessons based on real-world case studies she could explore. Ampiah joined two honor societies – Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Delta Nu – to help her connect with fellow dedicated academics and high achievers on campus, but it was her clinical experiences each semester that fueled her determination to graduate and get to work as a nurse.
“My capstone experience was really wonderful. I got the opportunity to work under an emergency department nurse in Elmer, overnight. I want to go into emergency nursing, so I got to see what that was really about," Ampiah explained. “I learned a lot from the E.D. nurses. They were all encouraging me, saying they could see me doing well in whichever unit I decide to be on."
Balancing the demands of nursing classes and clinical rotations, along with her job as a certified nursing assistant at The Pines at Voorhees Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, was a challenge already, but Ampiah could not say no when she was accepted into the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine's (SOM) New Jersey Area Health Education Center (NJ AHEC) Scholars Program. The two-year program brings healthcare students of all disciplines together to learn about the unique healthcare needs of underserved communities.
“If you don't have the right resources or the right people around, it can be very difficult when it comes to maintaining your health," said Ampiah. “Programs like this are important. With this kind of additional training, more medical professionals will be prepared to help those who most need help."
The NJ AHEC Scholars Program utilizes clinical and community-based training activities to prepare future healthcare professionals to deliver culturally competent care to vulnerable populations. While the COVID-19 pandemic did limit many volunteering opportunities, it also inspired the topic Ampiah suggested for her group's service-minded research project: Mental Health Barriers Faced by Residents in Camden, N.J. Amid COVID-19.
The three-person team used virtual tools to safely reach out to behavioral healthcare centers in Camden to find out how COVID-19 had impacted the challenges the facilities face and what problems their patients were up against. Ampiah and her group worked to identify barriers to mental healthcare within the city further stressed by the pandemic, and how those barriers could be addressed on a local, state and federal level.
“Helping underserved communities is important to me because I know how it is. I've seen it in my personal life, and I want to be of help," Ampiah remarked. “They need someone to be there for them."
Ampiah graduated with her Associates in Nursing on May 11, 2021, with her uncle and cousin present to take plenty of photos to mark the occasion. A continent away in Belgium, her mother joined the celebration in spirit, thrilled that her daughter is becoming what she calls “a woman of substance." A huge proponent of women's education who never had the opportunity to earn her own college degree, Irene Noami Vanderpuye is overwhelmed with pride at all her daughter has accomplished so soon after moving to the U.S.
“My mother has sponsored, supported and motivated me throughout my educational journey," Ampiah shared. “I could not have made this far without her encouragement; she always tells me not to give up in times of hardship and to strive for excellence. I am so grateful to my mother, who never stops praying for me."
Ampiah is currently focused on studying for her NCLEX exam this July — the licensure exam used by all state boards of nursing across the United States to help assess a student's competency — and is working with RCSJ's Rowan University Center to explore earning her B.S.N. through the College's 3+1 Nursing Program, offered in cooperation with Rowan University. She feels confident that she is ready to take her place as a nurse in an emergent care setting, where proper training and quick, critical thinking can save lives.
“RCSJ's Nursing program is the best because it doesn't only prepare you to pass the NCLEX, it prepares you holistically for your future as a nurse," Ampiah concluded. “You enter the field with the right expectations and skills. You're assured of being a good nurse by the end of this program."
Learn more about RCSJ's top-ranked Nursing program at RCSJ.edu/Nursing.