What year did you graduate from MCC and what was your major?
I graduated from Middlesex County College in 2015 with my associate degree in Nursing.
What was your occupation before becoming a nurse?
Prior to becoming a nurse, I was a soldier in the U.S. Army. I served three years active duty, one of them overseas in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After being honorably discharged from the Army, I became a Police Officer for close to two years.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
To many people’s surprise, long-distance running is what led me to nursing. As my understanding grew of how my pre-and post-run actions were related to my running performance, so did my fascination of the cause-and-effect relationship of the human body. I realized that this relationship paralleled the nursing profession. For example, a patient may present with signs and symptoms of unknown origin. Based on their clinical presentation, health history, and current medications we rule out different diagnoses to ultimately discover the cause of their symptoms.
While in other times, we know the patient’s primary diagnosis, such as congestive heart failure. Based on this information alone, we anticipate the signs and symptoms the patient will present with, consider accommodations they might need, and the tests/labs/medications that will be ordered. This all happens long before the patient even arrives to our unit, and is essentially working from the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to the first scenario.
So while long-distance running seems to be a far cry from nursing, it shares the same principles in physiology.
How has it been working with COVID-19 patients?
Patients with COVID suddenly and rapidly deteriorate in their health condition, unlike anything we have ever seen. In a 12-hour shift, several patients would die and others would get sent to the Intensive Care Unit. This was happening nearly every shift. I work on a step-down unit from the ICU and we are used to taking care of very acutely ill patients. My unit is notoriously known for being clinically challenging. Yet this virus still surprised many of us in how fast-acting and severe it would affect our patients. We are talking organ failure, severe respiratory distress, 104-degree fevers, and even gastrointestinal bleeding. Our patients on average were 50 years old, some with no comorbidities, and many of them dying. The hardest part was seeing patients die alone, or having to tell the patient their loved one has died from the very virus they are currently fighting. We have had husbands and wives and multiple members of the same family hospitalized at the same time on our floor. It has been disheartening to see some fully recover, while others do not.
How have the skills you acquired in the MCC Nursing Program prepared you?
We did clinicals on a medical-surgical floor, which makes up part of the unit that I currently work on. MCC’s nursing program dives right into clinical experience in the first semester of the nursing program. Clinicals are very hands-on, which allows for deeper learning and experience. I learned a lot of basic essential nursing skills, such as safe medication administration, sterile technique, foley placement, and proper nursing documentation. MCC’s Nursing program provided me the foundation that I needed to build my nursing knowledge and skills.
Why was it important to share your professional experiences with current MCC students?
I had many barriers to becoming successful: being Hispanic, a woman, single-mother from a low-income family, pursuing a third career, and an adult learner then in my mid-twenties. It is encouraging to know that others who have walked the journey you are currently on have established careers for themselves. I truly enjoyed my learning experience at MCC, and don’t think it gets the recognition it deserves. MCC’s nursing program was much more stringent than other four-year, prestigious nursing programs. Your success is a process that is ultimately determined by you, and not defined by whether you attended a 2-year or 4-year program.
What message would you share with others regarding volunteering and showing acts of kindness.
Happiness is found in kindness. The more you consider the needs of others, the more fulfilled you will be. This truth is only realized when practiced.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”