In 2017, Laura began pursuing her bachelor’s of science in nursing at WCU-Dallas. After graduating in 2019, she stayed in Dallas and accepted a job in surgical services on the med-surg orthopedic floor. She said she was open to trying different types of nursing as she had never pursued nursing before that.
“The only specific that I knew was I wanted to do nursing and work at a hospital,” Laura said. “I’ve never been in the nursing field or tried any type of nursing so I wouldn’t know what type of nurse I wanted to be without trying it first.”
Her interest in nutrition initially led her to investigate the nursing field. After seeing billboards advertising the nursing program at WCU she decided to take a leap of faith and began the program.
She said one of her favorite memories at WCU was her clinical experience at a local veteran’s hospital where she worked with veterans suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse problems.
“These strong men and women in the Army, who we think can handle everything, it’s like 'No, they come back traumatized,'” Laura said.
She got to know one patient who had been a high-ranking Army officer who later got his PhD and worked as a chemistry professor. Laura discovered he was also addicted to drugs. She noted that this interaction made her think differently about people commonly thought of as drug addicts.
“I felt like, ‘Man this really intelligent person is addicted to drugs,’” she said. “It’s not the typical person that you think would be a drug user. A lot of these people do not look like what you see on TV.”
The clinicals, as well as the simulation labs, prepared students for life outside the classroom. Although Laura said the simulations seemed overly difficult in the moment, she later realized they were highly similar to what she would experience in the hospitals.
“They have all these crazy things thrown at you that seem like they’re never going to happen,” she said. “In retrospect, everything in the simulation lab correlated with what you’re going to find at the hospital except in the sim lab you deal with one patient versus when you’re out working you have five patients and everything can go wrong at the same time.”
While the program is accelerated and rigorous, WCU offers resources to students such as their Peer Assisted Learning (PALS) tutoring, test review hours, a skill labs center and a staff that is always willing to help its students. Laura said she took advantage of each resource in order to succeed in her program.
“I don’t think I ever ran across a professor who wasn’t willing to help and teach you further,” she said. “I really emphasize the small classes and attention that you get. I know a lot of people want to do [a nursing program] as fast as possible but take your time.”
After graduating, Laura remained an active part of the WCU Dallas Alumni chapter. She said she has always volunteered and made time in her life to help others. Through the alumni chapter, she can serve alongside her former classmates and fellow alumni members.
One particularly impactful volunteer experience came while working with local non-profit Jonathan’s Place. Jonathan’s Place has the goal of providing loving homes, promising futures and a safe place to abused and neglected children, teens and young adults. Some of the children and young adults arrive at the home largely on their own after being separated from deported parents and relatives. Laura said she found the experience particularly personal.
“I’m Mexican and my dad came as an immigrant so I can’t imagine what these kids are doing in a country without their parents,” Laura said. “They don’t know anybody else so now they’re in this home with strangers and don’t get to see their parents or talk to them or know anything about them.”
Laura is proud to be a WCU alumna and is thankful for the experiences she’s had. She appreciates that WCU takes an active interest in serving their community and educating nurses on how to be impactful both in and out of the hospital.
“That’s what I love about the alumni. I love that we actually give back,” she said. “Not only are they teaching you or preparing you to be nurses but they’re also showing you other aspects of the real world like what actually happens and how these things affect everything in your life, especially your health.”