Community Care: Local Nursing Grads Share Their Stories

By Becky St. Clair on July 12, 2019

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It’s no secret Pacific Union College’s largest program is nursing, and that the department thrives on preparing medical professionals for successful, productive lives of service and care.

Whether they are working in the operating or emergency room, hospital or clinic, PUC nursing grads enter the workforce with confidence, experience, knowledge, and a heart both for the people they treat, and for those they work alongside.

“These new grads embrace our mission of inspiring health, wholeness, and hope,” says Susan Collins, talent advisor in talent acquisitions at Adventist Health St. Helena. “When we hire them, they continue expressing that kindness through their patient care. We are blessed they are now a part of our team.”

Additionally, many of these PUC nursing alumni choose to stay in the area, having developed relationships with medical clinics, hospitals, and residents in the valley, and established connections within their field. This gives them the confidence to enter their roles with spirit and energy from Day One.

“I find the PUC new grad is eager and ready to learn,” says Heather Anderson, department nursing director for MedSurg and surgical unit at Adventist Health. “They embrace the challenges the day brings and learn from each event and encounter.  We appreciate teaching them and watching them grow in their development.”

Keep reading to learn what three of our local nursing alums are doing today.

Erica Tran: ASN (’13) & BSN (’14)
  After graduation, Tran transitioned to the medical/surgical unit at St. Helena Hospital just down the road from PUC, where she worked for over two years before moving to her current position in 2016 as a Registered Nurse (RN) in the heart and vascular unit (HVU).

“It’s my role to provide holistic care to all the patients I encounter,” she says. “I do this by working together with interdisciplinary members of disease management, treatment, and prevention.”

The holistic nature of her work is an aspect for which Tran feels PUC prepared her well.

“PUC’s incorporation of spiritual care into the curriculum really made a difference for me,” she says. “My exposure to the concept of caring for the whole person has shaped how I do my job. It embeds a certain genuine and individualized characteristic in my interactions with patients and others I encounter.”

Despite the difficulty and busy-ness of her work, Tran has enjoyed the opportunity to give back to her alma mater. She has worked as a clinical instructor to first-quarter nursing students at PUC, and as a clinical preceptor to sixth-quarter students. Eventually, she hopes to attain her Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP), including participating in research projects to contribute to current medical knowledge bases. Following earning her degree, she wants to be a primary care provider in a clinic setting, serving populations who find it difficult to access medical care.

“The work we do as nurses can be difficult, but it is also incredibly gratifying to know I’ve connected with patients in their most vulnerable time,” says Tran. “It’s rewarding to be able to establish a trusting relationship while also making strides to bring my patients closer to their baseline or even into a position where they’re comfortable and thriving again.”

Jonathan Garza: ASN (’07) & B.S. in music (’09)
  For nearly a year and a half, Garza has been the heart and vascular unit manager at St. Helena Hospital, but prior to that he spent 9 years as a staff/floor RN with additional roles of charge RN and PRN house supervisor.

“PUC  gave me a variety of experiences through a diverse class load which taught me the importance of hard work, patience, and an open mind,” Garza says. “PUC helped reinforce my work ethic and stressed the value of having high integrity and accountability in my career. This has helped me with the diversity of my workload on the job, as well as calmly handling unexpected situations that crop up in any aspect of the medical world.”

Today, Garza manages 68 RNs, CNAs, and unit assistants. He manages a lot of details and deals with performance improvement, staffing, and administrative issues. He stayed local because he fell in love with the area and enjoyed his preceptorship at the hospital. When he was offered a job during his last week of clinical immersion, Garza happily accepted.

“Our hospital has a unique place in the community here, going back well over 100 years,” Garza says. “Our focus is always on improving patient experience by providing high quality patient care, which, as a nurse, is so very important. It’s why most nurses become nurses in the first place—that drive and desire to help and care for others.”

Garza would eventually love to work with youth at risk. As healthcare changes, he finds fulfillment in being involved with preventive care, helping young people establish health-conscious lifestyles before developing health issues. As he continues to move in that direction, Garza thrives in his current role.

“I love interacting with my employees, the patients on the unit, and others I encounter on the job,” he says. “Nurses as a group obviously love to help others and this management position allows me to help in ways I was unable to as a floor nurse, and I am grateful for this opportunity.”

Catie Robertson: ASN (’16) & BSN (’17)
  Since graduating, Robertson has worked on the cardiac telemetry unit at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, California. As part of the hospital’s new graduate program, she was able to complete 12 weeks of didactic and clinical work with a preceptor and clinical educator, taking what she learned at PUC and building on it to become even better at what she was trained to do. She now teaches nursing students and conducts orientation for new nurses at QVMC, in addition to caring for cardiac patients both pre- and post-surgery.

“Some of my favorite patients to work with are the open heart surgery recipients,” she says. “I love being able to educate and encourage these patients through one of the hardest times of their lives. It is a privilege to be such a support system and caregiver to not only the patient but to their family as well.”

Like many of her fellow nursing graduates, Robertson knows finding a job right after graduation can be difficult. It was from a connection she made through the nursing program at PUC she landed her current role.

“During my fifth quarter in the nursing program I was at the hospital when a patient coded and I was asked to help with compressions,” Robertson recalls. “During the debrief session following the code, I made the connection that would one day land me a job.”

Robertson says PUC gave her the tools and connections she needed to be successful in her nursing career. In the future she hopes to become a nurse practitioner in cardiac surgery.

“The skills I learned at PUC I continue to use each day at work,” she says. “Classmates remain some of my closest friends, and I get to see their successes and hear their experiences in other departments. I’m learning more each day and will always be thankful for the opportunity to attend PUC and become a nurse.”

Learn more about the nursing program at PUC at; schedule your personalized campus visit at or by calling (800) 862-7080.