PUC’s department of nursing is working in our community to provide health services in partnership with Adventist Health St. Helena and St. Helena Hospital Foundation Mobile Health Unit. Not only are the students making a difference and increasing their knowledge, but they are also getting unique, hands-on experience on the front lines of a pandemic. In addition to performing COVID-19 tests throughout the months of the crisis, the students are also now administering long-awaited vaccinations to healthcare workers.
Guadalupe Gomez is just one of the students involved who has chosen to enter a career of service as a registered nurse. Before coming to PUC, Gomez worked in the hospitality industry as a cook, baker, and cake decorator for large corporations. “Working for large companies, I found it was all about the numbers and the bottom line; where I truly found joy was in helping others,” says Gomez. Gomez decided to go back to college to become a nurse. “After completing my prerequisites, I prayed for a way forward in the next steps of my education and felt that God answered those prayers in the form of a chance meeting with a PUC alumnus. It was the Christ led education that I wanted, close to home. Since coming to PUC, I have experienced rapid growth academically and spiritually and am now in my second year of the nursing program.”
Gomez feels like she is laying out the foundation of her legacy and continuing the legacy of her Grandmother Patricia, who had her Master’s in public health and was an activist for farmworkers’ rights. “One of the things she valued most was justice, a pillar of medical ethics. As a student and a working nurse, I will strive to carry on her legacy of social justice and equity in healthcare,” said Gomez. “I think that whatever direction my nursing career takes me in the future, these values of social justice and equity will lead me. I think that as a Christian today, it is incredibly important to look at our unconscious biases and emulate Jesus more than ever.”
As a second-year nursing student, Gomez has started her clinicals and is getting practical experience during a very difficult time. “We have had to get creative and think outside the box for teaching practices and for providing students with real experiences,” says Debbie Wallace, department chair of the nursing program. “Partnering with Adventist Health St. Helena and St. Helena Hospital Foundation Mobile Health Unit has been great for our students, and they have been able to get hands-on experience in our local community and have received great advice and mentorship from working professionals.” Gomez states, “It was an amazing experience! I was able to give quite a few shots and get feedback on my technique.”
We asked Gomez several questions about her experience on the frontlines of the pandemic, and she shared how this experience and her nursing studies are impacting her career and life:
How does it feel to serve the community during a pandemic?
It feels like a relief. I felt helpless watching front line staff work tirelessly, and it felt empowering to use the practical skills that I have been building and keeping on standby for the last year. This experience was very rewarding.
Has this work impacted how you see yourself in the future?
This experience reassured me that Nursing is what I want to do with my life; I can succeed in this field and make a difference in my community. The future of healthcare is changing, and I’m excited to be a part of it. The field of nursing is evolving and growing, and with the pandemic, folks are starting to understand what Registered Nurses do and what an integral part of healing they are in the clinical setting. There are many outdated stereotypes of RN's depicted in the media; the reality is Registered Nurses are the most trusted profession in the United States and hold a unique role in patient care, advocacy, and education.
What advice would you give to an incoming nursing student? Would you recommend this type of experience?
If you are passionate about science, logic, and helping others, you can do it! There is a huge need for this profession. There is so much opportunity in this field to serve others and become a respected healthcare professional. This experience and going into nursing has better prepared me for life. I have learned valuable skills that make me less fearful. My nursing education here at PUC has introduced me to evidence-based practice, tools and systems that give me the confidence to address my concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and other common illnesses that might come up when I have a family of my own. Nursing offers a new framework to apply to life problems logically. I would highly recommend PUC because of the holistic approach they use for teaching future nurses. Their method involves training on how to take care of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Nursing at PUC is very compelling; all the educators have a lot of clinical experience and set up dynamic classroom activities that excite me about my future and an intellectually stimulating career of service.
How did PUC prepare you for this on-the-ground work?
Thinking like a nurse is emphasized early on in PUC’s nursing program. You are trained to think logically. Not only did PUC train me to treat the person holistically, but they also led by example. The Nursing Department here at PUC is unique in that we build such close relationships with our professors and classmates. There was no dialogue at previous schools that I have attended; I was just a number to staff and faculty. If I were to do poorly on an exam or had some major life events happening, it would be one less paper to grade for them. I feel like I am part of a community here at PUC, and I can always reach out to my professors for support and prayer; each one has truly impacted my life and my practice in a positive way. Any challenge that may come up, financial, academic, emotional, and spiritual - there has always been a fellow Christian there to lift me up. I have grown at PUC and am evolving into the RN and Christian I have always wanted to be.
What was the most valuable part of this experience for you?
Academically, I used many skills that I had been learning in preparation for the clinical setting. Personally, being able to serve my community. It feels like I’m finally doing it. I feel like I am stepping into the role of nurse and that I’m making a difference. When I’m helping others, I can dive into their world and focus on helping rather than my stresses, and I feel alive. This experience has been transformative.
What is it like out there on the field during this time?
It is surreal. At first, working in the Covid Testing site felt like a sci-fi movie with everyone walking around with masks, shields, drapes, face guards, hairnets. We looked like nurse drones, every sign of humanity covered up and tucked away. Without the ability to smile and gather casually, it was tough to make human connections, which is essential when providing treatment for patients. But the human race is resilient, and after a while, it felt like a typical day at the office. And we learned new ways to connect with people even while wearing a mask.
What are your future plans? And how has this experience impacted your future career plans?
I plan to continue my education at PUC. I want to get my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing here at PUC and explore public health options during the BSN portion, incorporating a Public Health certificate through that process. I want to get my master's and even doctorate and return to serve the community as an educator in the clinical setting or classroom. Christ will lead and guide my way, but I have learned the importance of networking and saying yes to new experiences. And this experience has indeed been transformative, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for me.