When she was born premature at 32 weeks, Aicha Dieme was breathing irregularly but doctors and nurses did not seem to notice. Her parents, both Senegalese immigrants, spoke little English at the time, which made it difficult for them to communicate that something was wrong with their newborn. It was her aunt who brought this to their attention and ensured that the issue was addressed.

Growing up hearing about this experience, Dieme knew she wanted to become a labor-and-delivery nurse to advocate for families in this situation. Like her aunt did for her, Aicha hopes to step in for parents and babies and ensure that everyone is adequately taken care of, despite skin color or language barriers.

"With the one class that I’ve taken for nursing specifically, I feel like it has prepared me to put the patient first and not just what the doctor says goes."
– Aicha Dieme

“I want to make sure that nothing goes unnoticed, especially if a baby isn’t breathing properly or if the mother is in pain, not to just ignore it like some doctors do,” Dieme said. “I just want to make sure that doesn’t happen to any other minority mother.”

Catholic University’s nursing program is preparing her for this mission. Through course material on nursing ethics and laws, she says her Catholic University education emphasizes a person-centered approach to nursing practice.

“With the one class that I’ve taken for nursing specifically, I feel like it has prepared me to put the patient first and not just what the doctor says goes,” Dieme said. “Yes, you should listen to the doctor, but if the patient said that it hurts, you should fight for the patient and be a patient advocate.”

She also appreciates Catholic University’s location and the access to valuable nursing internships and clinical experience it provides.

“We have a very good nursing program and it’s in D.C., where there’s a lot of hospitals compared to other places … and you have more opportunities to get internships,” Dieme said.

The sophomore already has hands-on labor-and-delivery experience, which complements her Catholic University education. As a senior in high school, she interned at a local D.C. hospital where she once got to be in the delivery room during a cesarean section. Through this experience, she was able to see the work of labor and delivery nurses physically come to fruition in the successful delivery of a baby.

“The most fulfilling part was seeing the mom’s face when [mother and baby] were having skin-to-skin contact,” Dieme said.

This semester, Dieme will be taking four nursing classes. After graduation, she hopes to practice either locally or in Hawaii, where she had originally planned on going to college before deciding to stay close to home. Wherever she ends up, she wants her birth story to fuel her desire to be a caring and attentive labor-and-delivery nurse, one who particularly advocates for minority mothers and babies.

Liliana Lomas, junior, Media and Communication Studies major.

Story originally published Spring 2021