Learn how real students navigate their way through the admissions process and school itself!
Meet Maria, a patient-care assistant, entrepreneur, blogger, and nursing student, on a mission to promote higher education within the Latino community.
Maria, thank you for sharing your story with us!
Where do you attend nursing school? What year are you in?
Maria: I am currently attending National University in San Diego, California. I will be graduating in a little over 6 months.
You mentioned that you have worked as a medical assistant and later as a phlebotomist. What did you love about these careers? How did you know that it was time to move on from them to nursing?
Maria: While working as a medical assistant I worked with a multi-specialty clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital. I learned so much about each specialty. I loved that I could interact with patients and make a difference in their lives, whether it was by translating for the Latino community and helping them by making sure they left with a scheduled appointment, or by helping parents understand their child’s diagnosis.
As a phlebotomist, I appreciated that although the job was the same, each patient was different as well as each blood draw I had to do. It was a sort of challenge, and I always enjoy a good challenge.
I knew it was time to move on from my role as a medical assistant due to the limitations within my scope of practice. I wanted to do more hands-on work; however, my title as a medical assistant limited me in doing so, and that’s when I decided it was time to go back to school. I knew I wouldn’t be happy in the long-term with the limitations I had at work and going back to school has been the best decision I ever made.
I understand you received a full scholarship to attend your BSN program! Can you share a bit about how you found out about and applied for the scholarship? Also, were there any conditions or commitments that you had to make to be eligible?
Maria: I was two months into my nursing program and my school was rolling out a new program called Honors for Social Change. It was a course where the students could connect on a deeper level about social change for a longer amount of time, instead of during the typical four-week classes. The school reached out to me and offered me this opportunity to apply to the scholarship since my grades met their qualifications.
For the application process, I needed to submit a few creative essays and write an essay about social change. If I was able to make any social changes what would they be? At the time I had just started my Instagram page and it was exactly what my platform stood for! I wanted to make a change by encouraging the Latino community to pursue their education. In addition to this, I had to create a video about a struggle I overcame. I spoke about coming to America and what my family as well as myself went through. The last step was to interview.
One of the conditions to receive the scholarship was having to take on another major on top of my nursing major. I would then graduate with a Liberal Arts degree as well as graduate with honors and with the perk of a full-ride scholarship. It was difficult at times with theory, clinical, and my scholarship class but I kept my eye on the prize and kept pushing through. This was such a great opportunity and I kept reminding myself that I could do it.
Are you working at the moment? Given the intense demands of a BSN program, is it typical for students to hold jobs while in school?
Maria: I work full-time as a Patient Care Assistant for a Labor and Delivery unit at an amazing hospital.
I think that anyone can work as long as they plan and prioritize their time. I would recommend working after taking your medical-surgical class as nursing classes are different and you want to make sure you know how to study and have your studying sessions down. There are other students in my cohort that work as well. Some have to as they have families, and others have the privilege to just focus on school. I say if you don’t have to work, focus on school; and if you have to work, know that it’s possible. This is coming from someone who commutes to school – to two different counties – and who is working on a dual major. Anything is possible as long as you’re dedicated!
Let’s hear about Jewelnvy! When and why did you start this business, and how are things going?
Maria: Jewelnvy is the business I started in 2015. I was on a search for cute badge reels to help distract my patients when working at Rady’s. I searched far and wide and couldn’t find what I was looking for so I decided to start making my own badge reels. Slowly, my coworkers started noticing them and offered to buy some. I launched my Etsy store online but was too shy to sell in person. Slowly, word got out and I began selling both in-person and online.
And just like that, my online Etsy store grew quickly! I then decided to launch my own platform and website. I continued to keep my store even after starting nursing school, however, my sales were increasing very quickly and began to interfere with my studies. I made the difficult decision to shut my store down while in school. But recently, due to COVID, we began making and selling surgical hats since there was a shortage. This might close temporarily again due to school, but we shall see. But you can say things are going great.
What does a typical day look like for you? How has COVID-19 altered the routine?
Maria: A typical day for me is either having a class or clinical via Zoom or working a 12-hour shift. The days I have class are normally about 8 hours long. I make a point to take advantage of these days and work on assignments. COVID-19 positively altered my routine! Although our school went online, I no longer had to commute to San Diego! I live in Riverside County so this saved me plenty of time where I could focus on studying instead of spending that time stuck in traffic. I’m thankful that my school has let us continue so we don’t get behind in our classes. Sure clinicals online aren’t the same, but I don’t mind. I’m always looking at the positive things and I’m happy I can continue school during this pandemic.
Can you share a story from a clinical that stands out in your memory?
Maria: Clinicals currently are online, however when I was in clinicals on campus, one story that stands out is when I had the opportunity to follow the Rapid Response Nurse, and that day our patient had been in a coma due to an infection he acquired while eating food in Tijuana. We were on our way to take the patient to get an MRI performed; however, while on the MRI machine his pulse dropped, and then we lost his pulse. His nurse grabbed my hand and told me to start CPR compressions! My adrenaline kicked in and I began compressions. Time went by so fast and at the same time so slowly. We were able to get a pulse back and then moved the patient back to his room. Again the patient lost his pulse! I continued compressions and we kept going for about 40 minutes, and I just remember thinking how amazing it was that there were so many providers in the room working on one patient making it their goal to bring him back to life. I knew that this field was meant for me. Although the patient didn’t end up making it, I was there till the end with his family translating what had occurred. I am thankful for my first language as I can speak to my Latino patients and help them understand what is going on in a hectic time like this. I will never forget this day.
How has your identity as a first-generation American shaped your educational or professional paths?
Maria: I am a first-generation immigrant, as I was born in Mexico City. I felt so lost all during my education and I never understood why until recently in my Honors for Social Change class. I realized that I didn’t have the same opportunities being a first-generation student. I was often passed over because my parents didn’t attend college and many assumed I wouldn’t continue my education. English was my second language and often the test was American-based on things I didn’t grow up with.
Although my parents were very supportive I was left to fend for myself when it came to school and knowing how to apply for financial aid, as well as for school. We are often left as our own resources because our parents didn’t have the opportunity to continue their educations. It was very difficult for me, but now as an adult, I know that my struggles have only made me stronger and have given me that determination to continue my education.
Where do you see yourself professionally immediately after graduation? What about in 5-10 years?
Maria: In 5-10 years I see myself with my DNP, owning a practice. I also see myself helping the Latino community and creating scholarships to motivate and encourage my community to continue to pursue their education. I would also like to create a platform that is dedicated to first-generation students who need guidance in school, from knowing how to apply to colleges and being a resource for students while they tackle school and being a support system for them.
If you could share one message with other first-gens looking to pursue healthcare careers, what would it be?
Maria: My message would be to keep pushing, be persistent, and if you happen to fail a class or two, don’t let that stop you! I had my share of failing classes. That didn’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you!
Do you have questions for Maria? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next What is Graduate School Really Like? post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
You can learn more about Maria by following her on Instagram.
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