Moses said the one thing they did not encounter much in their practice in Nigeria was patients with mental health conditions, which is what motivated him to specialize in mental health in the D.N.P. program.
“We saw few mental health cases at our practice in Nigeria because of the stigma that is attached to needing psychiatric help and the size of our facility,” he said. “We could not isolate patients, so they were afraid of being seen. I did travel to see some in their home, but that is what motivated me to be a mental health nurse practitioner. I’ve seen it all except mental health, so I wanted to do something a bit new for me but also where the demand is high.”
As their children grew up and started entering high school, Beryl and Moses decided it was time to make the move to the U.S. Beryl moved in June 2012, took the NCLEX-RN exam and secured a job and home. Moses and the children followed the following March.
Beryl had no trouble earning her B.S.N. through an online program, but Moses tried for three years to take the board exam and get into a residency program to be a medical doctor in the states. When that did not work, he chose nursing.
Not only are the two in the D.N.P. program together, they also work together at North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center in Gainesville.
“From the beginning, we have always been together,” Beryl said. “From when we were back home in practice together. Even now when we are working together. People ask us how. When we are at home, we’re husband and wife, but when we’re at work, we’re employees. It is the same way in school.”
The journey has not always been easy, though, as the Ekakities encountered many obstacles. But the one thing they always maintained is their focus.
“The most important thing is to remain focused,’’ Beryl said. “There were a lot of things I wanted to do but couldn’t because of my accent and color of my skin. It was glaring. I couldn’t help these barriers in as much as I couldn’t change the color of my skin or my accent. I just remained focused and knew the barrier would be there for a while but not forever.”
Moses said he benefits from having an established nurse to study with.
“My background is purely the medical side, and the way we are taught is not necessarily how nurses are taught,” he said. “So, I had to learn a lot of things from Beryl, like seeing things from the perspective of a nurse and seeing the patient as a whole.”
The Ekakities will graduate in May. They have served as role models who value education for their children, and it has paid off. One is a physician, one is a nurse, one is a medical student at the UF College of Medicine and one is an undergraduate at the University of South Florida.
“We believe that America is the land of opportunity,” Moses said. “It is open to the individual who can apply themselves appropriately. One thing that doesn’t change irrespective of your work or career line when you are coming to the United States is that it’s always good to go back to school, no matter your age. Once you have a degree or license from here, the sky is the limit.”