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University of Colorado College of Nursing

College of Nursing

Ai Liu: Hospital volunteer, research assistant aims for high goals in nursing

​Despite immigration challenges, Liu is on her way to making a difference in public health nursing

Ai Liu

Early in her childhood, Ai Liu’s grandmother, who always wanted a “doctor” in the family, inspired her. Her grandmother wasn’t able to get the education that she wanted, so she encouraged Liu to get hers.  Liu always wanted to be in the medical field, but she wanted to care for patients holistically and interact with them. Direct care was important to her.

Originally from China, Liu moved to the United States to pursue an education at Arizona Western Community College after her first year of high school. She did not complete high school or earn a GED, so she had to jump right into college, but she adjusted well. After a biology student teacher raved about the University of Colorado’s nursing program, Liu decided to look into it. Judging by the website, she decided that the College of Nursing would be a good fit for her.

When she applied, the college was willing to consider her unique background. Even though there were other prospects, she applied only to CU because the competitive program was appealing. She was accepted into the traditional bachelor of science program, and she moved to Colorado to live with a host family.

Liu has been a volunteer at Children’s Hospital where she floats, babysitting for children and siblings when parents have to work or run errands. Some of the children she works with have disabilities as well, “but they are all equally awesome.” Liu has participated in fun events with the children, and thinks that “spreading feelings of upbeatness and caring is inspirational.”

In the two years she has been a part of the program, Liu has had the opportunity to be a research assistant for about three semesters. During this time, she was able to work on a couple of notable projects: Liu studied reflex syndrome in infants with Dr. Neu; she also helped by compiling data for cancer recovery and maintenance with Dr. Jankowski. Liu was even offered the principal investigator role for a behavioral study on children with autism, but the funding source wouldn’t support a non-citizen. Liu stayed positive, though: “Just making the connection was really important.”

When looking toward the future, Liu says it’s tricky because of her immigration status. With a student visa, Liu can only stay in the U.S. for one year after her graduation this December. “Denver is pretty saturated with nurses and other applicants are just as competitive as I am, without the immigration issues.”

Even with her immigration challenges, she does not want to gain experience in China yet. There is no equivalent of a RN in China, so it would be challenging to find a position. Liu does think that at some point it would be great to go back to China to work with policy changes.

Liu wishes to further her nursing education by earning a master’s degree in public health or public health nursing. “Nurses now have more voices in health policy.” Liu wants to make a difference on a larger scale. Her interest in public health also overlaps with her interest in global health. Her ultimate goal after completing her education would be to bring her nursing background to the United Nations or World Health Organization in some capacity. “I think that would be unique.”

 “We’re on the frontline all the time. Nurses should step up in terms of taking leadership positions.”