Associate Spotlight: A Childhood Dream to Care

Drum Hill nurse left native Ghana to pursue career

Woman posing for photo in senior home

How far would you go to lead your family to a better life?

Francisca Gyekyewah flew across the world from Ghana to America, spending seven years away from her three children to attend nursing school, build a career and eventually fly her children across the Atlantic to join her in Massachusetts. Today, she’s a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at The Atrium at Drum Hill.

Hers is but one of many fascinating stories that led Benchmark nurses to the noble and rewarding profession.  Francisca, currently Acting Director of Medicine at The Atrium, is a powerful exemplar of this year’s theme for International Nurses Day: A voice to lead.

A vision for her future 
Francisca always wanted to be a nurse, but her parents had different plans for her – they wanted her to become a teacher, like them. Teaching jobs were plentiful and teachers are highly respected in Ghana.

Still, she just didn’t want to be a teacher, so in her third year of high school Francisca took the entrance exams and applied for the nursing program. She didn’t bother to apply for teaching.

But her father filled out her teaching school application for her, without her knowledge. The teaching results came back first.

Her father told her that acceptance into the teaching program meant she wouldn’t get a spot in the nursing program, so Francisca accepted the offer and spent the next four years training as a teacher.

She found out later that she’d also gotten into the nursing program, but her father had hidden the envelope until after the response deadline.

Winning the lottery
After four years teaching in Ghana, her teacher friends were reading a letter one day from a former colleague who’d moved to America. At the end of the letter he mentioned a program called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) where applicants entered a lottery to win a US green card.

Most of her teacher friends dismissed the lottery as a joke. But Francisca filled out an application and sent it in.

“And God be so good,” she said. “I won!”

Winning the DV lottery also qualified her family.

Francisca’s mother was worried, concerned that her daughter’s new baby was too young to travel so far, especially when Francisca and her husband didn’t have jobs lined up yet or how to navigate America.

So, Francisca and her husband left alone, leaving their three boys in the care of her mother. They set out to build a life in Worcester, Massachusetts, working toward the day when they could bring their children to their new home.

After two years of saving up vacation time, they flew to Ghana to visit the boys. Two years later, Francisca became a US citizen and, finally, in 2003, they were able to bring their sons to the States. Just in time for another sibling, a baby boy.

Laying the groundwork
In 1996, her first job in Worcester (where she lived with her uncle) was with New England Envelope Company, which had nothing to do with nursing.

So, Francisca turned to the classifieds and looked for jobs related to nursing. Most of them wanted a Certified Nursing Assistant certificate, so she applied and got into a CNA program.

When her CNA clinical training brought her to a nursing home, she felt a kinship and connection with the nurses there. With certification in hand, she applied for one of those CNA jobs she saw in the newspaper. It was a senior living community that was still under construction, The Atrium at Drum Hill.  She’s worked there ever since.

While working as a CNA, Francisca was accepted to nursing school and began taking classes. She completed the program and became a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Two female nurses speaking to each otherA Clinical Leader 

After seven years as an CNA and 14 years as an LPN — all at The Atrium — Francisca has long been a pillar of the community for residents and staff alike.

Her experience and compassion made her the obvious choice for Acting Director of Medicine when the leadership position was open at the beginning of this year. She already knew all the residents’ families, making a point to meet everyone involved in her residents’ care. And the other staff already looked to her for guidance and inspiration because of her insights and passion for the job.

“Fran is an incredible person. She has been there for me every day since I started at the Atrium,” explained Michelle Bianchi, The Atrium at Drum Hill’s executive director. “Fran goes above and beyond for the residents and their families.”

Once settled into the leadership role, Francisca began studying to earn her RN certification and take the next step forward in her nursing career. Whatever the future of healthcare looks like, she’ll welcome it, as always, with compassion and dedication.

“I love this job,” she said. “I love who I work with and my residents, and everyone around me has so much to offer. Every day.”

The Atrium at Drum Hill