Street: What’s something that people just don’t know about nursing?
Ian Jeong: Nursing school is hard and it’s pretty unhealthy, as ironic as that is, because I think the expectation is, like, this is it—you’re in nursing school. There’s a lot of time you spend doing nursing stuff. So we have nursing lab and then we have nursing lecture and then we have nursing clinical, and on top of that we have to take a nursing elective, so we just spend a lot of time doing nursing stuff.
Street: Do you want to be a practicing nurse?
IJ: That is the money question… I’m not sure if I love nursing, and it’s very difficult to say because everyone in nursing [loves] nursing and that’s all they want to do. I get very anxious the night before clinical or when I’m going to the hospital because I really don’t like seeing people in pain. Blood and those kind of things don’t gore me out, but seeing people in pain really gets to me. It’s very emotionally draining. So I definitely want to become a nurse right after graduation because I feel like that’s what I’ve been working towards, but I don’t know. I can’t say that I’m really excited.
Street: Can you speak about your involvement with Lambda Alliance?
IJ: I’m currently the chair of Lambda Alliance. Previously I was the interim internal chair, like two years ago, because the person right before me studied abroad, so I came in to fill in that vacant spot. Previously I worked on Penn administration to increase coverage for transition–related services because Aetna’s student health insurance only covers bottom surgery or surgery that changes genitalia, which I think is very, in a way, destructive because I think that is connecting gender to genitalia and there are secondary sex characteristics that are just as important to people and some people might not want to [get that surgery]. I think transition is different for every person, for each person, so I think it’s unethical to only cover something related to transition, just because I guess that’s how some people understand gender. It turns out that Penn will advocate for that, but Aetna has to change their entire policy for student health in general. And then for Lambda internally I try to put a big focus on a building of community—having more fun events and not having more frequent events because Penn people have so many competing priorities. If there’s an event every week, some people can’t make time. So if you make something that’s more special that people can go to, that’s how I’ve been moving my committee towards collaboration.
Street: If a queer student was struggling on campus, what advice would you give them?
IJ: If you want to talk about your identity and be introduced to the community, I think the staff at the LGBT center is pretty good because they know the constituent groups, they know the student leaders. I think making that first move is very scary, but once you come to events, there are icebreakers and I think those programs are generally designed to bring people who have connections and people who are new to the space together. Or reach out to me! I'm always willing to make new friends.
Street: What's been your coolest nursing experience?
IJ: I love older patients. I was working in the hospital as a nursing assistant this summer. I had this patient who was really brilliant. She was from the South and had been living in Philly for a long time. She talked about how she participated in the Civil Rights Movement. This lady was close to 90. We’d just talk about what the Civil Rights Movement meant to her when she was young and what Black Lives Matter means to her now that she’s older. I sat with her for over an hour and she was talking to me about what being a mother has meant to her. And she said that, “When children are young, they’re heavy in your hands. When they’re old, they’re heavy in your heart.” And I thought that was really profound and it’s kind of stuck with me since that day.
Street: Why do you like older patients?
IJ: Because they have such cool stories. They kind of remind you [of] what’s really important. There are people who are surrounded by family and friends when they’re at the end of their life, and there are people who are not. And not to say that people who are not surrounded by anyone made mistakes, but I think that it reminds me and informs me what ultimately I want to strive for which is time with my loved ones.
Street: Is there any issue that you're super passionate about?
IJ: I’m interested in how hospitals function as business entities. A lot of hospitals are merging together—Penn just bought Lancaster Hospital so there are trends of hospitals becoming bigger and that really intrigues me—how that’s gonna change the way healthcare is provided and paid for.
Street: If you are what you eat, what are you?
IJ: Oh my God. I am Brussels sprouts. That’s my favorite. (Ed. note: You are the worst kind of person.)
Street: Do you think that Nursing has helped you with your personal nutrition?
IJ: I think it has helped me because I understand macros and micros and what I should avoid and what I shouldn’t avoid.
Street: So what’s your go–to treat?
IJ: Peanut butter is my treat. It’s fairly healthy, but not the amount that I eat. I actually won’t buy peanut butter because I’d be eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s so loyal to you.
Street: What would you be infamous for?
IJ: I think I would be infamous for like showing my ass cheeks on Snapchat. I’ve done that before.
Street: Do you story it?
IJ: Obviously I story it. I think it’s come to a point where my friends don’t even bother screenshotting it anymore. They’re so used to it, which I think kind of hurts me a little bit.
Street: There are two types of people at Penn…
IJ: Those who send out the When2Meet and those who fill it out.
Street: What’s one question we forgot to ask you?
IJ: I think you forgot to ask me what I’m gonna be for Halloween. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I think I’m going to be the Angry Arthur Fist meme.