Shinae Kim Altena

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Shinae Kim Altena (ISPP Alum 2000-2003) is a Certified Medical Surgical Nurse at Rush Oak Park Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, USA. For those of us who remember Shinae, we remember her as the budding artist, the designer of many a yearbook cover. No one was surprised when Shinae was accepted into Fine Arts at Biola University in Southern California. But after a year of art school, Shinae realized she wanted to pursue a different passion. In 2004, she transferred to Calvin College in Michigan, graduating four years later.

Shinae explains the reasons behind this significant turning point in her life: “It was hard to be creative on demand with so many deadlines and projects at university. And I always had an interest in nursing because my mother was a nurse.” Her advice to others in similar situations is “to ask a lot ofquestions and ask people for advice. I talked to nursing majors and the nursing department professors to find out more about nursing before I changed my major.” Since becoming a nurse, Shinae has thrived. One of the best things about Shinae’s job is the flexible hours – she is actually the first person to sign up to the night shift. “I have always been a night person, so I love the option of working at night. Even at ISPP, I used to go home straight from school to take a nap and then wake up at 2AM to do my homework,” shares Shinae. Most importantly, Shinae is thankful for a steady job in today’s economy, especially one that offers diversity in focus and educational support if she wanted to pursue a Masters.

Of course, nursing has its challenges. “There are a lot of demands from patients, managers, coworkers – and there are no handsome young male nurses like you might find on TV shows,” remarks Shinae. Not that she should be looking because she is happily married! Shinae met her husband Michael Altena through a mutual friend and was impressed with his interest in diverse cultures and international travel. In addition, Michael has four adopted siblings from Thailand, India, and Korea, so Shinae fits right in. They married in 2010. 

Shinae (far left, middle row) with her ‘multi-cultural in-laws’

While Shinae’s career plans have been reshaped, some things are harder to change. She is still the same, hardworking, and fun loving person she was at ISPP.  For example, when Shinae is asked to describe herself as a student, she laughs and says: “chronically tardy, I was always late for homeroom!” Then she sheepishly admits, “I’m still late for work, but probably better.”

Shinae has strong memories of ISPP. Born in Korea, Shinae lived in four countries before moving to Cambodia. She remembers the outfit she wore on the first day at ISPP where she joined the Grade 10 class in 2000: “I was wearing a sleeveless green shirt, with a white layer underneath and jeans and a new pair of shoes that I got from Korea.” She says she remembers it so clearly because she wanted to make a good impression. Shinae recognizes that the IB Diploma Program prepared her for university, and she realizes now how much it built a foundation for her learning and how she now views the world. She is thankful for all of her teachers as well as the amount of time she got to spend with them because of the great teacher to student ratio at ISPP.

Since leaving school, Shinae shares that one of her biggest lessons she is learning from work is that “Nursing is a science but also an art. I am constantly looking for creative ways to holistically care for the sick. I want to care for people’s physical needs, but I also want to touch the spiritual, emotional, and social aspects of people’s lives. And of course there are days I just want to pass medications and say as little as possible. On days like this I just try to remember why I started this work!“

Then and Now: Shinae in Grade 12 in the ISPP art room; Shinae with a coworker at the hospital.