Q&A with Practical Nursing Student Mercedes Gonzales
Please tell us about yourself.
I am 30-years-old and I was born in Colorado Springs. I currently live and work in Albuquerque for UNMH in the NICU. My two sisters are younger than me, so I’m the oldest in my family. I have three dogs who are like my children. I don’t have any kids yet, but I plan on fostering and I already have my foster care license. After graduating from Del Norte High School in northeast Albuquerque, I went to CNM and did math and English classes. I also got involved in fighting and kickboxing. I was doing that eight hours a day, six days a week. I even tried out for the Olympics at one point. Along the way, I worked in hotels for 5 years. I was doing a lot of overnight shifts and at one point I decided that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I decided to pursue healthcare because it has interested me ever since I was 8 years old and my cousin had a seizure in front of me.
When did you decide to pursue a career in practical nursing?
I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. After becoming a MA through Carrington a few years ago, I thought that I would go into an RN program. Unfortunately, math has always challenged me. I took the test to get in and I failed all three times. That was devastating! So, I spoke with Amber at Carrington and she encouraged me to take some courses at CNM and try the test again. I did that—as devastated as I was at the time—because I am still determined to be a nurse. I took math, biology, and chemistry at CNM. I took all of the classes that I needed to be in nursing school. Then I went back and took the test again and I was shy from passing by maybe three points on my second try.
Instead of taking it again, I decided to look at what else Carrington might have to offer. That’s when I found the LPN program. With my test score, I could get in. I thought this may not be the quickest way to become an RN, but I can still work on it and keep going; or, I can let this stop me and devastate me again. And so I thought, instead of taking the RN test the third time, I’m going to enroll in the program. I’ll take the scenic route to become an RN and enjoy the journey! I started the program in August 2021 and I’ll finish in July 2022.
Why did you choose Carrington?
The cost was a big factor—I’m not going to lie. CNM is a great school and it’s very affordable, but they have a lottery scholarship and you might apply three times and be denied every time just because you weren’t picked. UNM awards scholarships based on grades and you have to be really good. Pima is super expensive. And then there is Brookline—it is also expensive and costs around one-hundred-thousand dollars to get your BSN there. I already knew Carrington from getting my MA and so I thought, let’s go back to where I know I am comfortable.
What is your favorite part of the program at Carrington?
I really like my lab class because I like learning hands-on things and then applying them out in clinicals. I also really like my medical terminology class.
What was the most challenging part of your program?
Math. I just have to keep at it.
Did you ever want to quit when you were in school?
All the time. On my bad days, I want to kick my tires. I’ll be tired and I’m like, “I quit! I quit! I quit!” It feels better just saying it even though I’m not going to quit. There have been many days when I have wanted to and I never do because of my end goals.
What got you through the challenging times?
Talking to my support system—my parents and my sisters. They know the struggles I went through just to get here. And I got here, you know? They talked me down from being upset and said, ‘if you have to retake your test, that is fine. It has been this long, you might as well keep going!’ So, I talk to my parents and my sisters and they calm me down.
Are there Carrington instructors or staff members who you would like to acknowledge?
First I would like to acknowledge Dr. Penny. She is always our cheerleader and makes class fun. She also helps us with our other classes when there is a need. Then, Dr. Phan is the dosage instructor. She understands that most of us struggle with math and she tries to help everyone the best way she can. Also, Dr. Ashcraft knows that most of us have struggled with math and so she has stayed after 5 pm to tutor us and help with dosage. She is a rock star for that.
Please tell us about your current work.
I work at UNMH in the NICU as a Patient Care Tech. Sometimes I use my MA. I assist the nurses as much as they need. Lately, we have been so short-staffed that our nurses have had three baby assignments in an ICU when they are only really supposed to have two. I will help them with feeding, changing, taking temperatures, and doing vitals. I also stock the unit and make sure everyone has what they need in case of emergencies because those do happen in a baby ICU. I also admit and discharge patients. Discharge is my favorite part. We all line up against the wall—nurses, techs, housekeeping, everyone—and we all get one pom pom. The parents walk by with the baby and we wave our pom poms and cheer. It’s one of the best moments ever. You see this baby that has been there for five months, seven months—there was one that was there for eleven months—finally get to go home.
I started a reading program over there so I get donations from Barnes and Noble, family, friends, and really anybody who wants to donate a book. We use the books there and we donate them to the parents. Sometimes I will sit down with a baby that is going through alcohol or drug withdrawal. They need to be held because they are withdrawing and uncomfortable, so I will read them a story. They can hear and feel the rhythm of your voice and that often calms them down and soothes them.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love working with my little babies! I love watching them grow from less than a kilo into a term baby. Even though they’re small, they’re mighty.
How did Carrington prepare you for your career?
Carrington has taught me that even though healthcare is science, it is also an art. We help patients out not with just medicine but by caring and support. Sometimes the best medicine is to sit, listen, and be there for the patient.
Do you have any advice for people interested in going into your field?
I would say that even though there will be times where you feel absolutely defeated, keep going. Something will eventually give. We all have mountains to move, one rock at a time.