Sarah Deredza never thought she would get this far, not just in nursing, but in her life.
Deredza is a nurse at Healthcare Partners, a primary care clinic in Las Vegas. This spring, she earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from UNLV after successfully defending her project. But her success did not come easy.
Tragedy struck her family as a young child, but the generosity of others helped put her on a path to nursing. Now she uses nursing and health-based education to spread that same generosity to those around.
Deredza grew up in Zimbabwe. When she was younger, her mother took her and her brother and sister to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe for assistance. Deredza’s father had died, and her mother was also ailing; she was hoping to find relatives to help them. But her mother collapsed outside a radio station; she was taken to a hospital where she died. Deredza was only 8 years old.
The radio station called for help, and Deredza and her siblings were taken to SOS Children’s Village Bulawayo in South Zimbabwe. The international organization places orphaned children in a network of homes, each with a family unit that helps eight to 10 children with similar profiles grow up.
It was a struggle to shift from her mother’s passing to being put in this new home, but she credits the organization for easing the transition by maintaining a sense of family. “Coming into that setting with like-minded or people with similar experiences, I think we were fortunate," she said. "I have other siblings, but there were other people that did not. It was nice to have more siblings. We have a bigger family.”
From Stability, Success
The new family unit provided Deredza with opportunities to thrive. Deredza developed an interest in health care and the biology of life. “I just always knew there was something more that can be done to help people that had health needs,” she said. “As time progressed, I was more exposed to other health opportunities. I knew that was an area that you could make an immediate impact in people's lives because you see so many people suffer. It just touches you in a significant way.”
Deredza earned a scholarship to Berea College in Kentucky and originally studied social justice. While that met her service-orientated passion, she realized she wasn’t fulfilling her life purpose; she wanted to combine the service with health care. She switched to become a nurse. After completing her undergraduate education, she moved to Las Vegas in 2013. “My goal when I finished my bachelors was always to go ahead and get a higher-level education,” she said. “The better that I’m positioned to be able to help [people], the better care they get.”
Deredza was drawn to UNLV for its status as a major accredited university; she also had observed the quality of its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. “I did move to Texas and back, and I found the nurses that were trained [at UNLV] really did well. I was always impressed by a nurse that came from there,” she said. “So that sort of made it an easier choice in that sense, because not only was it a convenient place in terms of access, but I knew the quality of the outcomes were definitely going to be something that I could benefit from."
A Personal Project
To help prepare DNP candidates for advanced clinical practice and leadership roles, they must complete a culminating project. Deredza’s project focused on educational awareness related to screening and lifestyle management of blood pressure in African migrants, a population not commonly studied. She wanted to study a subject close to her heart, something she could keep building on.
“Me being here is a testament to the increasing numbers of [immigrants from all parts of the world] that are here and how that impacts our health outcomes and interactions,” she said. “When I meet somebody, to me, it's always important to have that cultural competency eye to be able to meet them where they are. I thought that's a space that I could really get into.”
Her project helped her spot limitations in general health care knowledge, specifically how people outside the health care system saw and understood how it actually works. But she says she’s proud to educate participants in her research so they can share with their loved ones.
“I really wanted to get to the heart of the people,” says Deredza. “To do that, you have to know what matters to them most and what it is that would move them. Health and family are important. So, what are the behaviors that are putting them at risk and how can you partner with them to help them improve.”
Lifestyle education offers opportunities for people to better themselves and their families, she said, but also recognizes the strain of people’s schedules.
“Everybody is so busy, and a lot of it then falls on the educators,” she said. “[Young kids] are spending a lot of their time in school. The parents are working; they’re tired and come home needing to rest with little opportunities to spend with their children or families. Because everybody is busy, nobody has time to learn.”
Generosity of Others
Deredza’s passion for giving back is more than her role as a nurse. She participates in her local church activities; she mentors nursing students and previously volunteered at soup kitchens. She credits the kindness of other people that has really made that impact in her life, so it’s natural for her to help others in her community. “I truly like to say, I'm like a beneficiary of God's grace, because in my wildest dreams, I would have never dreamed that I would go this far or that people along the way would be there to support me.”
Generosity doesn’t have to be some grand gesture. Deredza says human interaction, even on a small scale, can positively influence someone’s day.
“I'm a big proponent of us not losing the human touch and how people relate, if we can slow down and listen to each other,” Deredza says. “Opportunities to impact people are everywhere. It could be helping somebody cross the street. It could be just even saying hi to somebody. [It can] make their world, because maybe they have so much going on and they don't feel anybody sees them.”