BEVERLY — To Katie Beqi, it's not about the title, it's about the job.
Despite being a doctor in her native Albania, Beqi, now of Beverly, said she chose to become a nurse upon moving to America in 2000 because she wanted more direct contact with patients.
The decision to attain an additional degree for a lesser position came during Beqi's first year in the country when she experienced an American hospital firsthand while her brother-in-law battled cancer. She realized it was the nurses who handled the majority of the direct patient care, while the doctors mostly worked behind the scenes.
"It was the nurses all the time communicating to me," Beqi said. "That is the difference between doctors and nurses in this country."
In Albania, doctors are the ones who spend the majority of time at patients' bedsides, while nurses are in the background.
Although Beqi was planning on taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination to transfer her license to practice medicine and become a doctor in her new country, she soon decided that she'd rather become a nurse instead.
Life in Albania
Beqi decided to become a doctor at a young age because her father was a successful obstetrician/gynecologist for 33 years.
Beqi earned her medical degree at the university in Tirana, the capital of Albania, and, after completing the required one-year residency, she was quickly thrown into an unconventional work environment.
Beqi worked at a military refugees camp, treating those who were fleeing from the warfare and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. She handled all aspects of treatment for the more than 2,000 victims in the camp, from dressing wounds to performing lifesaving operations.
"I loved it," Beqi said of working in the camp. "There was so much going on, and people needed a lot of help."
However, when Beqi's father passed away in 1999, she decided to move to America to help out her younger sister, who had a newborn baby and a sick husband.
A change of plans
Beqi never intended to stay in the United States for too long. "After a year and a half, I still had my suitcase packed," she said.
However, she settled into life in her new country and met Timothy, an ex-Marine, whom she eventually married.
Beqi enrolled in Salem State College's nursing program soon after her experience at the American hospital. Beqi had learned English in her Albanian high school, but she said enrolling in an American college was still daunting because there were many terms — both medical and colloquial — that she had difficulty understanding.
"People would be like 'Catch ya later,' and I'd be like 'What? Catch what?'" Beqi said. She also had to study with an English dictionary to understand many of the terms in her textbooks. Beqi now speaks English very well, though she still tells her husband to correct her usage as needed.
She received her degree from Salem State in 2007, and, with her previous medical experience and her Albanian degree, she was soon hired for a nursing position at New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Danvers.
She enjoys working at the rehab because its small size allows her to see plenty of action. "There is one floor with 20 beds," she explained. "Each patient gets a lot of attention. ... I get to know them, and it's a big reward when I see them go home."
A rewarding transition
In her first couple of weeks at work at the rehab, Beqi realized there would be a transition to make as she was no longer a doctor.
"I now have to take orders, which was fine," she said. "The hard part was I got to make decisions (as a doctor), and now I have doctors to communicate with first. I have to pace myself."
Nevertheless, she finds the work suits her.
"I love being a nurse. I like rehab in general. It's very rewarding, and the patients appreciate it," Beqi said.