Alumni Spotlight – Meet Lilly Velazquez
Liliana Velazquez, RN, is a single mom who always dreamed of becoming a registered nurse (RN). In February 2013, she completed the Registered Nursing LVN to RN program* at the Carrington College Sacramento campus.
Thanks for your time Lilly. When did you start working in the medical field?
It was in 2000. I had no experience; I started filing medical records at an outpatient clinic. It was my first time working with medical assistants and nurses. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a nurse; it was my dream. Getting a job in a medical office at the age of 21 seemed a good place to start.
So how did you climb the ladder?
Being an RN was my ultimate goal, but I knew I had to go through steps to get there. I went to school and got my license to become a vocational nurse (LVN). I did that for about nine years. But as an LVN there were a lot of things I wasn’t allowed to do. That just made me more determined.
What was the hardest thing about making the transition for LVN to RN?
The hardest thing for me was letting go of my LVN rules. I used to think to myself – “Oh I have to go to my RN for this…” then I’d realize that was no longer the case. That was the hardest thing initially.
Did you work during the program?
I gave up my full-time position to go to school; but I had to work because I needed the money. I had to support myself and my two boys. I went per diem and worked one or two shifts a week. I made my work schedule fit around my school schedule. Even though it cut down my income a lot, it was a sacrifice I knew I had to make to get through school. It was short term pain for a longer term gain.
What does nursing mean to you?
The way I look at it, it’s not just something you do at work. Nursing is something you incorporate into your daily life; it’s an attitude or a calling I guess. You have to take care of your license, your integrity, your professionalism, your reputation. For me a lot of things changed when I became an RN. I now think twice before doing things I typically didn’t care about before. I choose to make better choices to protect my reputation and license. Do you know what I mean? That’s just the way I look at it.
You’re rightly very proud of being an RN. Tell me why.
Becoming an RN was a dream of mine as a child. I’m Hispanic, so considered part of a minority group, and growing up I always felt that it would be out of reach and that I wouldn’t become much in life. I was one of five kids, and my family really didn’t have much. That’s why I always thought becoming an RN would only ever be a dream. Not very many Hispanic people that I knew ever went to college because our parents couldn’t afford it.
I’d always felt that it was something that would be very hard to accomplish. And it was. I put myself through LVN school, and worked really hard. Thankfully my parents were able to help me with some of the cost of the Registered Nursing LVN to RN program. But if I’d been any younger I don’t think they could have.
As a single mom, do your kids appreciate how hard you’ve had to work to fulfill your dream?
I think so, especially my older boy. I started the Vocational Nursing program when he was two, he was four when I got became an LVN and then I started my RN pre-requisites when he was eight years old. He was twelve when I started the Carrington program. I feel like he’s seen me struggle the most, or maybe it’s just that I’ve been absent the most with him. Sometimes I feel that I’ve not always been there because I’ve been so busy trying to accomplish this dream of mine, so we could all have a better life.
Is he proud of you?
I think so yes, but he’s a fifteen year old boy so he doesn’t come and tell me! But when he’s had English papers to write about someone that inspires him or about his hero, he’s written about me. That’s where it comes out – in his writing.
We have a house that I’ve purchased on my own, and we have a lot of things that we didn’t have before. There are times when we’re sitting by ourselves and he’ll make comments like – “Gosh mom, I can’t believe we have this house now when before we were in this little apartment.”
I ask him if he’s thought about what he wants to be when he grows up. He says he doesn’t like Math or English. I tell him that neither did I, but sometimes you’ve just got to work hard, do your best and get through it. I let him know that if he needs extra resources, like tutoring, I’ll be there for him. If he wants to go to college, I’ll do my best to get him there. I’m always on to him about school and college. I tell him that dead-end jobs won’t get him anywhere in life, so he needs a good education.
Tell me about your job, and your future career plans.
I’m a labor and delivery nurse at the Sutter Davis Hospital Birthing Center, providing mother and baby care. I do three 12-hour shifts a week, but I’m doing nights and that takes a lot out of me. I do like my job and I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, but it’s a very high stress place to work and I’ve learned over the last two years that it’s one of the most risky places to work.
What do you mean by risky?
I’m dealing with a mom and a baby’s life at the same time. If I don’t make the right choices for my patients, that can impact their birth outcome. Things can happen that are out of our control, and there are times when things can turn bad really fast. It can be very scary and very stressful.
So which direction do you see your nursing career heading?
I could see myself as a certified legal nurse consultant. Nurse consultants are self-employed; they consult with attorneys on medical-legal cases. I’ve done a lot of research into it; I’d like to work smarter instead of harder. I’d like to start part-time, while still working at a hospital, and build up a client list of lawyers. Eventually I want to be my own boss.
For any LVNs out there, would you recommend the Registered Nursing LVN to RN (or Nursing Bridge) program?
Oh definitely yes. I chose the Carrington program because I was able to start the next term. It’s very fast paced, so if you’re not very organized or committed, you’re going to find it hard. You have to be focused. In my experience, the older students like me – the ones with responsibilities – did better than the younger ones. I was a single mom with two kids, working and going to school. I didn’t have time to waste; I wasn’t there to mess around, I needed to get in and out.
Just know that it’s going to be over before you know it. You get so caught up in the program that you don’t even think about time. Especially if you have a family and a job. You have no time for self-pity! There was never a time when I felt sorry for myself. I always tell people there’s never a perfect time to do something. If you want to do it, just do it. Get in there, enroll, and don’t make excuses for yourself!
Last question! You get an unexpected few hours to yourself, what would you do?
Nap! I love to take naps – they’re the best thing ever. I close my blinds, grab my blanket and go to sleep. They recharge me and make me feel good! And my kids say they make me less grumpy! I’m off to do that now actually as I’m not long home from a night shift.
*Note: Admission to, or graduation from, our Nursing program does not guarantee obtaining a license or certificate to practice nursing. Licensure and certification requirements are the exclusive responsibility of the State Board of Nursing.
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