Naomi Kaufman knew she was going to become a nurse from a young age. Having grown up in the suburbs of Philly, she was familiar with the local hospitals and wanted to attend school in the city. She is currently carrying out this plan as a first-year nursing major here at Drexel.
Location was not the only factor in Kaufman’s career choice, though. At the age of 14, her mother was diagnosed with a complex nerve pain disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The disease — which is extremely rare and often misdiagnosed — worsened over time. Kaufman witnessed various healthcare professionals caring for her mother.
“I got to see the different roles that healthcare played in her life — occupational therapy, physical therapy, inpatient, outpatient, doctors, nurses. And what got my mom through everything were the nurses,” she said.
“I always had a mother/nurse role in my family and with my mom being in and out of the hospital,” said Kaufman. On top of the flair-ups of her mom’s disease during the cold winter months, she watched after her 15 and nine-year-old brothers while her dad worked full time.
Kaufman’s mom passed away on October 12, 2019 – the middle of the first term of her freshman year. “She was so strong but her body wasn’t strong enough,” she said.
While she grieved the loss of her mother and her greatest inspiration, Kaufman missed a week of classes. But she was determined to push forward and fulfill the goals she had set out to achieve.
“It didn’t make sense for me not to finish. I want this so bad,” she explained, “There’s no option to sit around and do nothing. That’s not what my mom would’ve wanted and that’s not what I want for myself. She wouldn’t want this to hold me back, she would want me to keep on going.”
There are good days and bad days, said Kaufman, but the Drexel community has helped her immensely with her healing process. She’s involved with the nursing community, the Jewish community and Greek life as a member of Delta Phi Epsilon. “The nursing culture here is such a tight-knit group. Everyone has a very similar base of morals and we all want to help each other. The nursing community here is so cool,” said Kaufman.
Currently, Kaufman is doing volunteer work at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Getting to work with the patients and see the nurses in action makes all of the hard work worth it — it reminds her that she’s doing this for a reason.
She is also the youngest of three generations of women working in healthcare. Before her mom became a nurse, Naomi’s grandmother worked as a healthcare professional at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She explained that her mom has “passed the torch” to her in a way.
Moving forward, Kaufman wants to use the tools her mom gave her to make a difference in the lives of others. “I don’t want to be like my mom, I want to use what my mom showed me and gave me to become my own person and use her ways to influence me and help me grow as a person,” she explained.
Ultimately, Kaufman wants to make a difference in the lives of others by helping them get through difficult times with a person-to-person approach. She has felt the impact of nurses firsthand and hopes that she can provide others with the same experiences.