While attending Herzing University-Madison to earn her bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, Elvira “Vivi” Ruíz Gárate juggled four part-time jobs along with her nursing studies – all to keep her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner alive.
We sat down with Vivi to learn more about her experience as a nursing student and what her plans are for the future.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in nursing?
I was born in Peru, and when I was 14 years old, my family moved to the United States. After I graduated from Beloit Memorial High School, I started working at a community health center as a receptionist and later moved into healthcare roles including medical assistant and medical interpreter.
Many of the patients I worked with were Spanish-speaking and part of my job was to guide them to resources, explain to them what the doctor was saying in terms they could understand and be an advocate for them. It was then when I realized I had a passion for patient advocacy and culturally sensitive care, and knew I could make a difference as a nurse.
Why did you decide to earn a BSN?
After several years of working as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), I knew that I wanted to advance my nursing studies and my career. I decided to attend Herzing University for my BSN after hearing about the positive experiences a few friends had in the program. Learning that the program didn’t have a waiting list was a major incentive for me.
How did you balance work and school as a nursing student?
While enrolled in the BSN program, I worked in the Learning Commons on campus where I helped with tutoring and other related tasks. Aside from working as an LPN at a nursing home on the weekends, I also held part-time jobs as a student nurse assistant and a fill-in health room assistant for the Beloit School District.
Balancing work and school were challenging, but I was able to manage it because of my flexible class schedule and family support. My professors were very encouraging as well. When a person is in an environment where they hear “you’re smart, you can do it,” it inspires that person. That is what happened to me – I felt like I could succeed.
What’s next for you career-wise?
Since graduating in May 2019, I have passed my NCLEX-RN licensing exam and have started working full time at UW Health. I was accepted into their Nurse Residency Program and will be graduating in July 2020. Earning my BSN helped me get accepted into the residency program, which was my main goal post-graduation.
I plan to continue my studies to become a nurse practitioner. Thanks to Herzing’s dual credit program, I’ve already completed a semester toward my graduate degree!