Where Are They Now? Q&A with Sirirothnak Seng ’20

Rothnak Seng

Where do you consider your hometown?

I’m originally from Cambodia, and my family moved to America when I was 14. I consider myself both from Cambodia and Long Beach, California.

Where are you now, and how are you using your BSN degree?

I currently live in Pomona, CA, and work at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California. I was in cardiac telemetry, but now I’m transitioning into the cardiovascular ICU. I work with patients who have had heart and lung transplants and require one-to-one medical management.

Why did you choose the UW–Madison School of Nursing?

My sister was in the traditional BSN program at UW–Madison. When I visited her, I really liked the city and the culture, and she encouraged me to apply to the accelerated BSN program. I had already interned at hospitals and clinics and was majoring in biology.

I was at the point in my life where I knew what I wanted, and I knew this program would take me towards my career faster than a traditional BSN. My sister was a big motivation for me. She kept telling me I could do it if I just stayed focused. I applied, got in, and the rest is history!

It’s been the most perfect decision I’ve ever made career-wise.

Rothnak Seng stands on railroad tracks, smilingWhat was your favorite experience at the School of Nursing? Why?

One of my favorite experiences was the rural immersion program in Monroe County, which opened my eyes to rural health care. We did our clinical rotation at a small hospital and learned about the important role they play within their communities.

During the immersion, a group of us decided to rent an Airbnb that was located on a farm. The farmer was so friendly and gave us a whole tour. After a long day at the clinic, we all came back in our scrubs, we went to his barn, and he showed us how to milk his cows! I think the key to being successful as a nurse is to have fun at the end of your shift, and this was definitely fun.

What advice would you give to individuals considering the ABSN program?

This program is great for those who know they want to become a nurse and want to get there quickly.

The program attracts highly motivated individuals, and it’s really inspiring to be in a cohort like that. It pushes you to think about what kind of nurse you want to be, and you make great friends along the way. I loved it, and I highly recommend it.

Rothnak Seng stands on a balcony overlooking the oceanWhat’s the most rewarding part of being a nurse?

It’s very important to keep learning in any career, and in nursing, you learn every single day.

It’s meaningful to know that every decision you make with a patient really matters. It’s scary, but also rewarding. Whatever I decide to do during my twelve-hour shift has a big impact on my patients and their families. I can see the product of my work right there in front of me.

I also love the interdisciplinary aspect of the job and the way I get to learn from a wide range of other health care professionals.

What’s the biggest challenge facing nurses today?

Burnout is a huge problem, and COVID made it even worse. During the pandemic, the work environment was very dangerous, and it felt like nobody cared about the well-being of nurses.

Nurses need support. We need time to relax and rewind so we can do our best work. Safe staffing is so important, too. Not being able to care for each patient the way you need to leads to guilt and burnout.

Now that our hospital is back to better staffing levels, our patients are better cared for, and everyone can finally relax.

This is another reason the ABSN program is so great; it can train nurses quickly. I wish there were more ABSN programs out there!

What advice would you give to recent alumni?

Trust that you have the clinical experience to be a nurse. You may not feel like you’re ready, but you are. As long as you have that foundational knowledge and you choose a good residency program, you’re going to succeed everywhere you go.

My program was cut short by the pandemic, and I had to leave three months early and go back to California. It was quite shocking, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be clinically prepared. But the program educated me so well, and I was able to start my career and develop the skills to become an experienced nurse without any issues.

I should have told my old self, “Relax, everything is going to work out.”