Path to Success: Key Nguyen ‘21

Music brought Thong “Key” Nguyen ’21 to the Nursing program at UVM. The melody he sang during a performance with the Vermont Youth Chorus at a senior living community moved a resident to tears - and changed Nguyen's life.

“An older lady approached me with eyes full of tears. She told me I reminded her of a nurse she once knew who had a beautiful voice. She said ‘your voice is so beautiful,’ and she asked if I would consider becoming a nurse. I thought it was just a fun compliment, but I looked into her eyes and I realized it was a serious question. It stuck in my head a lot after that,” Nguyen recalled.

Soon after that experience Nguyen ’s parents, who speak no English, asked him for help at the U.S. Social Security office to discuss their future, and he realized that his parents will need his support. The Nguyen family emigrated from Viet Nam to the U.S. in 2013.

“The image of the lady in Wake Robin reflected back to my mind. My parents depend on me for basic needs,” Nguyen said. “With skills as a nurse, I can provide care for my parents and give them financial support.”

That experience prompted Nguyen to research nursing education, potential jobs and salaries. “I enjoy studying about human physiology and health science,” he said. “Majoring in Nursing is perfect for me.”

Nguyen enjoyed a busy first year in college. In addition to a full schedule of nursing classes, he sang with the UVM Catamount Singers and served as a senator in the Student Government Association. In his second year he will continue as a senator and Catamount Singer and volunteer as a peer advisor to first year students.

“I’m passionate about guiding new students because, personally, I would not be where I am today without help from other people,” he said. “When I came to the U.S. I could not speak English. Countless people helped me, and I am thankful for that. I have accomplished a lot this year and I can pass this on to the incoming class. I want to help the next class of nursing students be successful.”

His future plans are in place: After graduating in 2021, he intends to stay on at UVM to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing followed by a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. To prepare for graduate school, this summer Nguyen will participate in a six-week internship at the University of Texas Health Science Center, taking classes and doing clinical rotations.

He hopes to return to Wake Robin to sing for the lady who inspired him. “When I go back, I will tell her I’m in the Nursing program. I look forward to it.”

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the UVM Nursing program. The first students to achieve a bachelor's degree in nursing from UVM began their studies in 1942 and graduated in 1947. Alumni and friends are invited to attend an anniversary celebration on June 8 at the UVM Alumni House.


Janet Lynn Essman Franz
Nursing students practice skills on mannequins in the Clinical Simulation Laboratory in Rowell Building at UVM.
Key Nguyen will serve as a peer mentor next year.