Doubling Down to Help Others

Jul. 30, 2021
Ranae and Shanae McKenzie – identical twins from Jamaica – share a passion for nursing and education

Sisters Ranae and Shanae McKenzie have done just about everything together for as long as they can remember. Born and raised in Jamaica, they are identical twins with identical passions. Both came to the U.S. for their undergraduate education and now are nursing students together. In September 2020, they both started the Accelerated Bachelor’s Program for Non-Nurses at the University of Rochester School of Nursing (SON). They are slated to complete the program in the fall of 2021.

The McKenzies share a passion for learning, nursing, and helping others, too. They also are both scholarship recipients. Shanae is the recipient of the Houle Station Scholarship. Ranae is the recipient of the Ruth Finnie Smith Scholarship and has benefitted from the McLouth Scholarship Fund. They both have also received the SON Diversity Scholarship, which supports the school’s mission to diversify the nursing workforce. It is provided to students from underrepresented groups who have demonstrated significant leadership skills. The combination of all of their scholarships is fully supporting their tuition costs.

Donor generosity has eased their financial burdens significantly. It has helped make it possible for them to pursue their nursing degrees, and it’s given them the opportunity to focus solely on their nursing education—which they continue to do together, often smiling and finishing each other’s sentences along the way.

Here, they delve into why they want to be nurses, life at SON, and their goals.

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Why?

Shanae: In high school in Jamaica, we had to do a career portfolio, which gave us an opportunity to pick three careers we were interested in. Nursing was one of them. That guided our studies throughout high school and pointed us in this direction. I want to be a nurse because it will allow me to care for people, advocate for them, and be a resource to them.

Ranae: Many of our family members are in nursing careers. Like them and like Shanae, I enjoy helping people. I am so glad to be part of the School of Nursing. Being here has underscored how much I love learning and helping others to get to a healthy place.

How did you go from Jamaica to Rochester?

Shanae: It was a long road. We started out at Kansas State University where we majored in nutrition and kinesiology. We went to Kansas because we each received athletic scholarships to go there. They didn’t have a nursing program, so we took courses we knew would be required at nursing school, and we researched schools with great nursing reputations.

Ranae: That’s how we found the School of Nursing. We applied and we were both accepted to the accelerated baccalaureate program. We really wanted a yearlong program, which this school offers. The program is perfect for us.

What are some of the highlights of being in the accelerated program?

Shanae: I just had an amazing experience in one of my clinical rotations. I worked with a non-verbal, quadriplegic patient. He couldn’t express himself verbally, but he gave me these big, bright smiles. Seeing that smile along with his treatment progress was so fulfilling. He was also a patient I learned a lot from clinically. For instance, I learned about oral suctioning, chest therapy techniques, and more. I applied what I was learning in the classroom.

Ranae and Shanae McKenzie
Ranae (left) and Shanae McKenzie

Ranae: I’ve really enjoyed my obstetrics (OB) clinical rotation. Recently, in labor and delivery, I watched and monitored a young mother, saw her baby get delivered, and then helped her care for it. I got to help her learn how to breastfeed, which included how to properly hold the baby and encourage the latching on process. It was so rewarding, and I realized how much I enjoy the educational aspect of nursing.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Shanae: This is a three-semester program that includes clinical rotations in medical surgery, OB, pediatrics, and psychiatry. During the week, we have online classes from 9 am to about noon. Then we have an in-person lab from 1 to 3 pm. We do our in-person clinical work from 6:30 am to 2 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sundays, we study because we usually have an exam early in the week.

Ranae: It’s a very busy schedule, but we love it. We are planners and manage our time carefully. The program gives me such a feeling of accomplishment, which is a great reward. Sometimes, we also reward ourselves by watching movies and binge-watching Netflix. A lot of the shows we watch are medically related like Grey’s Anatomy and The Good Doctor. It’s fun to watch programs that cover topics we are learning in class. Last week, one was all about a cardiac issue. We knew exactly what they were talking about and understood all the jargon.

What do you want to do after graduation?

Shanae: I think I want to be a NICU nurse. When I was in that rotation, I realized how much I enjoyed working with infants. I also really love the team aspect of care—in NICU nursing and everywhere here.

Ranae: Down the road, I see myself in the OB area, as a labor and delivery nurse or maybe a midwife. I’m not sure yet. The more I get exposed to different areas, the more I learn about myself. Like Shanae said, the team aspect is really a big part of what SON teaches and what we have experienced in our clinical rotations. For instance, if a baby were breech, the doctor, the nurses, and a respiratory therapist would all work together to develop and implement a plan of care that was best for baby and the mom.

What does scholarship support mean to you?

Shanae: It means everything. We wanted to be here more than anything and getting these scholarships has meant that we aren’t burdened with financial stress—we can focus on our education. I don’t know if our donors really know the impact they’ve had on our lives—it’s huge. They’ve opened many doors for us and blessed us. Someday, we both hope to do the same.

Ranae: I remember being back in Kansas when we got our acceptance letters. We were so happy to just get into the school. As we were reading the letters, we paused and saw that we got these scholarships, too, which was completely unexpected. We were speechless. We read the letter over five or six times, because we just couldn’t believe it. Then, we called our mom and our aunties, and everyone was so happy for us. We are truly grateful.