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 alive of becoming a nurse practitioner.
“Finding a career I’m passionate about is very important to me,” Vivi said. “That’s why I decided to finish my schooling, to make a better life for myself.”
Vivi was born in Peru and moved with her family to the U.S. when she was 14. She graduated from Beloit Memorial High School and a year later started working at a community health center, starting as a receptionist and moving into health care roles such as medical assistant and a medical interpreter.
She became an LPN after attending a technical school in Janesville. When she wanted to advance her nursing studies, she found that all the programs in the area had waiting lists. She decided to attend Herzing University after hearing about positive experiences a few friends had at the nonprofit school and learning that its new BSN program didn’t have a waiting list.
“Herzing understands and supports non-traditional students who have to juggle jobs and family, and they make it easy with online classes and the way they schedule on-campus classes,” Vivi said.
“The staff is really amazing and professional,” she added. “They’re always encouraging you to do your best. When you’re in an environment where they tell you ‘You’re smart, you can do it,’ it inspires you and makes you feel like you can do those things.”
While enrolled in the BSN program, Vivi worked as an LPN at the Rock Haven nursing home on weekends. She also held part-time jobs at UW Health as a student nurse assistant and at the Beloit School District as a fill-in health room assistant.
Since graduating in May 2019, Vivi has passed her NCLEX-RN licensing exam and has started working full time at UW Health as part of their nurse residency program.
Vivi, who speaks fluent Spanish, wants to make a difference in health care by fulfilling her passion for patient advocacy and culturally sensitive care.
Patients are more comfortable when a medical professional “looks like them and speaks the same language,” Vivi said. “They open up and tell me more than they’ll tell someone else.”
Vivi has plans to continue her studies to become a nurse practitioner. Thanks to Herzing’s dual credit program, she has already completed a semester toward her graduate degree.