Photo by Becca Sabot
Be Thi Ho
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Be a good nurse. That’s what Ho has done.
As a child, the blue eyes and long eyelashes of kind French nurses entranced her when her dad had surgery. But nursing was not a prestigious profession in her native Vietnam, so her mother wept when Ho passed the nursing entrance exam. “Don’t cry,” her dad told her mom. “Maybe she will be a good nurse.”
Ho went on to polish her English on scholarship in England, and bring children to Minneapolis for heart surgery in 1972—saving their lives and getting their picture in the paper.
She becaume chief of nursing at Nhi Dong 1 hospital in Saigon. Even while her country was at war, she remained a good nurse.
The communist regime forced her to write weekly essays declaring herself a state enemy. Ho was told, “Because you are such a good nurse, you will help enemy soldiers.”
That persecution, and watching patients suffer due to supply shortages, led her to leave. She embarked on a journey of risky lies and boats packed with people (on which pirates dumped her nursing credentials into the sea). She made it to a Thai refugee camp and, in 1980, to Minneapolis, where Children’s HeartLink sponsored her, and where Children’s Hospital gave her an entry-level job and paid for her American nursing school in full.
Today, Ho’s coworkers gush about her attitude, compassion, and preparedness. The day this photo was taken, surgeons discovered an unexpected mass in a child. She had the tools prepped. “I am always prepared,” Ho says. “In my opinion, surgical nurses are responsible for addressing our patients’ needs and comfort just like how we would address our own.” That can mean using lasers, robotics, and electronic charting, not just the scalpels and sutures of yore.
But technology is not what being a “good nurse” is about. “It’s about being a human being who has all the ideal characteristics of a parent, teacher, and friend, with the goal of providing unconditional care.”
The ability to laugh doesn’t hurt either. “I remember a 9-year-old girl said, ‘See you later, alligator,’ to me. I laid awake all night thinking, ‘She thinks I look like an alligator?’” Nor does tenacity. Like staying up until 3 am to translate lecture notes from Vietnamese to English. “If there is a challenge, it makes me work so much harder,” Ho says.
Because that’s what a good nurse does.