Rose Khalifa is a registered nurse and chief executive officer of Metro Solutions, a firm that helps connect small nonprofits to funding.
In 1977, when we came, it was to a very welcoming city because it was a growing Arab American community in Dearborn. Having a lot of family members on my father's side here, we didn’t feel too much of the displacement. And, at six years of age, you adapt very quickly. It’s the adults who struggle the most.
Going to school, I didn't have a challenge because there were bilingual teachers, and there was English as a second language class. The struggles weren’t there until my teens, when the cultural clash kicked in. I was beginning to lose my ability to speak Arabic while trying to embrace and perfect my English. I was torn between what I want to do and what teachers were asking me to do, versus my parents being worried about me losing my cultural and linguistic skills.
When I was 12, I went to the hospital for an outpatient ear, nose, and throat procedure. When I dealt with the staff, I spoke in English, but when my parents came I spoke in Arabic. One nurse let me have it. “Why are you speaking another language? You can speak perfect English.”
I was torn between the mercy of the person who's got her hands on my pain medication versus trying to satisfy requirements set forth by my parents. I should never have had to feel that as a patient.
That was the moment I knew that my calling was in nursing. It was to nurse differently than that person did. It wasn't just nursing but the empathy and passion that goes with any service industry, particularly for a most vulnerable population.