Hajear Alshaheen, an RN from the Arabian Gulf, chooses Alvernia to pursue a higher nursing degree

By Elizabeth Hanson

Hajear Alshaheen was not your typical first-year student when she matriculated into Alvernia’s nursing program in 2020. At the age of 28 and equipped with a registered nursing degree from Kuwait and five years’ experience working in health care in her country, Alshaheen ventured from her home of Al Khobar on the Arabian Gulf to study in the United States.

Alshaheen explained, “I wanted to pursue a higher nursing degree and the United States was the best place for that.” Her original plan was to study at the University of South Florida because that was one of the American schools partnering with Saudi students in her area, but it wasn’t for her. “I realized that at a big university, I couldn’t get focused individual attention and that is really what I needed.”

After carefully researching nursing programs and immersing herself in the uncharted process, she found Alvernia. A conversation with Director of International Recruitment Sibel Ahi sealed the deal.

According to Ahi, a native of Turkey who has been at Alvernia for three years, “Hajear asked a lot of questions about the nursing program and seemed impressed with the reputation of the program and the personal attention she would receive. She is very thorough and dedicated to whatever she does. We talked for a long time and when she found out that I was from Turkey, she said that she and her family visited Turkey all the time and that she was definitely coming to Alvernia.”

"Nursing to me is happiness … work that is coming from your heart.”

Alshaheen has successfully completed one-and-a-half years of the four-year nursing program. “I had to learn to study again. I have more commitment this time because at Alvernia, I am learning the reason for many of the procedures I was doing at home without knowing why.”

Nursing Department Chair Deborah Greenawald, Alshaheen’s advisor, describes her as "highly motivated with an excellent command of the English language and good time management skills who fully engages in all aspects of the program.” Said Greenawald, "The nursing program has more required courses than most majors and it is very challenging for many students to translate the cognitive pieces as well as transition to the culture, coming from halfway around the world. Hajear has also taken on the role of being an advocate for newer international students, paving the way because she knows what it is like.” Alshaheen is now working in the Office of Recruitment to help guide future students. Said Ahi, “She is dependable, and I can trust her with confidential matters. Visa processing, etc. Coming from a closed culture, she is extremely open-minded.”

Additionally, this busy young lady has thrown herself into introducing herself and her culture to the Alvernia community and gaining a knowledge of other cultures in return.

According to Ahi, “Hajear is the first one to get onboard at any event where she can engage or help the community. You can see her at the Sept. 11 prayers, Martin Luther King service day, community garden cleanup and pumpkin harvest, Holleran’s Earth Service Day, Saint Francis Day of Service, orientation engagement or the Reading Community Ramadan celebration event.”

Alshaheen enjoys crocheting in her free time and has also made a difference crafting caps and donating them to the NICU’s for newborns in area hospitals. She has also started a chapter of the Saudi Student Association at Alvernia. “I found people who helped me and I want to be that ‘older sister’ to help them because they are thinking in the same way I did and need the answers.”

She is planning to stay in the states to get graduate degrees in nursing. She also wants to create a positive change for nurses in her country. “Technology here is so totally different than what we have at home, and I want to bring that and effect positive changes. Nursing is a less appreciated job in Saudi. I want our nurses to feel valued and boost their confidence. Nursing to me is happiness … work that is coming from your heart.”