Nurse of the Week: Nursing Student Brayan Aguirre Determined to Succeed Despite DACA Uncertainty

Nurse of the Week: Nursing Student Brayan Aguirre Determined to Succeed Despite DACA Uncertainty

Our Nurse of the Week is Brayan Aguirre, a DACA recipient who is pursuing a nursing degree at Harper College amidst uncertainty of what the future holds for those protected by the program. Forced to work harder than most other 20-year-old college students, Aguirre spends his free time helping to support his family through a job at a nearby rehabilitation facility. He is committed to achieving his goals despite the daily uncertainty that comes with being an immigrant who wasn’t born in the US.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was enacted five years ago under the Obama administration. It’s an immigration policy allowing children brought to the United States illegally by their parents to get temporary reprieve from deportation and receive permission to work, study, and obtain a driver’s license. Recipients must have arrived in the US before the age of 16, have a clean criminal record, and be enrolled in high school, college, or the military.

Aguirre’s family moved to Arlington Heights, IL from Durango, Mexico when he was just eight years old and he has never been back to visit. After living in daily fear of the unknown, many of Aguirre’s fears subsided when DACA was created. Being approved for the program meant he could get a job that didn’t pay cash under the table, that he could legally drive to work, and that he could finally hope for a better future in which he didn’t have to live in fear of an unexpected immigration raid.

For most of his life, Aguirre felt that he was at a disadvantage and that planning for the future was a waste of time. But after being approved as a DACA beneficiary, he was accepted into a selective medical chemistry class which confirmed his decision to pursue a career in healthcare. He also explains his family’s support for his career choice in an interview with

“My mom had always pushed me to have an interest in medicine because I had group B streptococcal meningitis as a baby and almost died. The medical profession saved my life, and increasing access to better health care was one of the big reasons my parents moved here. I started to feel like I wanted to give back somehow. I want to take care of people and hopefully have a positive impact on people’s lives.”

DACA beneficiaries don’t qualify for financial aid, so Aguirre set his sights on Harper, an affordable college option thanks to privately funded scholarships that eased the financial burden of pursuing a nursing degree. Aguirre first set out to earn his licensed practical nurse certificate, and he is now finishing prerequisites for a bridge program to a registered nurse degree which he hopes to begin in the spring.

Following an announcement in early September that DACA will be phased out over the next six months, the cloud of uncertainty that Aguirre grew up under has now resurfaced. However, for the time being he has no plans to change course on his path to a career in nursing. He has sought support through a group for Harper DACA students and begun sharing his story to help others understand the benefits and importance of the DACA program.

To learn more about the DACA program and Aguirre’s experience pursuing a nursing degree as a DACA recipient, visit here.

Nurse of the Week: Nursing Student Jordyn Pennington Jumps in to Help Treat Victims of Ohio State Fair Ride Malfunction

Nurse of the Week: Nursing Student Jordyn Pennington Jumps in to Help Treat Victims of Ohio State Fair Ride Malfunction

Our Nurse of the Week is Jordyn Pennington, a junior in the Chamberlain University College of Nursing who jumped in to help treat victims after witnessing a disastrous ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair in July that killed one and injured seven others.

The Fireball, an 18-year-old fairground ride that spins and swings passengers in a pendulum-like motion, collapsed due to “excessive corrosion,” ejecting passengers from the ride. Letting her nursing school training take over, Pennington jumped in to help and later shared her memory of the experience with us.

To learn more about Pennington’s lifesaving nursing care following the ride malfunction, read our full interview with her here:

Can you briefly describe your experience witnessing the ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair and what motivated you to jump in and help?

I did not personally witness the accident, my husband did. We were at a food stand when he saw the incident happen and yelled, “Jordyn, that ride just broke and people flew out!” When I first heard what he said, it didn’t click that something that awful had actually happened. I looked around and saw police officers and fair workers all running over to where the accident happened.

Within seconds of the ride malfunction, my husband and I ran to help. I walked up to where the police officers were pushing the crowd back and said, “Hi, I’m a student nurse, can I help?” From there I was led back to where the victims were, given gloves, and sent on my own to help in any way that I could. I knew those people needed help, and I was determined to help as much as possible.

How has your nursing education thus far prepared you to help in this kind of emergency situation?

Chamberlain University has done such a wonderful job of educating students on safety, assessment, and prioritizing. At first, I entered the scene and looked around to see where help was needed. I checked to see if anyone needed CPR (none was needed at the time), and moved on to who I felt would be a priority. When I was working with the patients and the two other wonderful nurses (who I didn’t know at the time were nurses), my Chamberlain training all came flooding back and I started working on instinct. I wanted to help in every way possible so I worked to find the people who needed help the most, and took immediate action.

What triage or first aid skills did you use to help those injured by the ride malfunction?

I helped coach breathing and applied pressure to stop bleeding (along with the other people, two wonderful nurses who I’m proud to now call friends). I held and stabilized a limb that I thought was broken, used communication to calm the victims down, prevented what could have been an additional life or death occurrence, helped hold arms for IV insertion, and helped keep the victims calm and still as much as I could. The two other nurses and I stabilized the victims as much as we could until the paramedics arrived.

While assisting in helping the victims still trapped in the ride, some people tried to manually open the seats that were stuck. From education I’ve received, you never move a trauma patient unless their life is in further danger. Since the people were not in any additional danger, I instructed them to stop trying to open the rides since the patients were safer in place than being moved which could cause further injury. I feel lucky to have stopped what they were doing, and honestly believe that my speaking up potentially saved lives.

What are your future plans for a career in nursing?

Honestly, I feel lucky to just be in a nursing program and in the future, to become a nurse. After this horrific incident, I know now that my heart belongs in trauma. I also have a huge soft spot for oncology as well. I currently serve as the president of Chamberlain’s College of Nursing Columbus campus Oncology Nursing Student Interest Group and couldn’t be more proud to help represent such a wonderful group!

Is there any other information you want readers to know about yourself, your nursing career, or your experience helping during a public emergency?

I’m just your average person who was in the right place at the right time to offer help. I’m a mother of two beautiful kids, and am married (4 years) to my high school sweetheart. Caring for people has always been a passion of mine, and I feel so lucky to be able to earn a degree in a field that I love.

Please lend a hand if you’re able to, and speak up if you know something is wrong. You never know what you’re truly capable of.

Nurse of the Week: Ashley Apple, UVA Nursing Student, Travels to Help Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Nurse of the Week: Ashley Apple, UVA Nursing Student, Travels to Help Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Our Nurse of the Week is Ashley Apple, a nursing student at the University of Virginia (UVA) who gathered a team of caregivers to travel to Texas and help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Apple, 38, was the owner of a coffee shop in Arkansas when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the people and homes of New Orleans in 2005. Feeling helpless as she watched the news coverage of the storm’s aftermath, she decided to sell her coffee shop, enroll in nursing school, and never feel helpless again while witnessing the tragedy of a natural disaster.

Apple is currently enrolled in her second year of the UVA School of Nursing’s RN to BSN program which offers working nurses a path to a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She also works as a floating emergency nurse for Bon Secours health system, and leaps in to help whenever she can, like in the case of Hurricane Harvey.

Apple tells, “Katrina really sealed the deal for me. Sure, I loved the things that you love about a coffee shop – the art, the music, the people, the connections you make – but in the end, I was still counting cups. I wanted to do more in service to my community.”

As she watched Hurricane Harvey begin to take its toll on Texas, Apple rallied a small group of fellow caregivers, purchased first aid kits and supplies to bring along, and hopped on a flight to Dallas. Her team included her mother (a fellow nurse), a small group of local nursing students, and Bon Secours staff. The group spent five days making rounds to Houston shelters to provide well-being checks, offering care to individuals with chronic medical conditions, and vaccinating first responders against tetanus, diphtheria, and hepatitis.

During Hurricane Harvey, Apple no longer felt like a helpless bystander the way she had during Katrina. She says, “The most amazing part for me was feeling useful.” Apple loves the work she does, and she is proud to show her two children, ages 3 and 5, how nurses can be of help at the bedside, at the disaster site, and in front of the classroom inspiring new learners. After finishing her BSN, Apple plans to work toward her master’s degree then Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. She has grown to love academia in her time at UVA, and she has a passion for teaching that she is excited to put to use in the future.

To learn more about Ashley Apple and her unique path to a career in nursing, visit here.

UMass College of Nursing Opens New Course on Human Trafficking

UMass College of Nursing Opens New Course on Human Trafficking

The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) College of Nursing is offering a new online course on human trafficking beginning this fall. The course will be taught by Donna Sabella, an expert in the field of human trafficking, and open to all academic disciplines so that graduate students in any program can gain knowledge on the subject.

A UMass press release about the course states, “The course will introduce students to what human trafficking is, how to identify victims, the health problems commonly associated with this population, special considerations to be aware of when working with trafficking victims and how to access services for them,” according to

Sabella says the course will introduce students to what human trafficking is, how to identify victims, the health problems commonly associated with this population, special considerations to be aware of when working with trafficking victims, and how to access services for them. The course is expected to be especially beneficial and of interest to nurses, health care professionals, law enforcement officers, teachers, and social workers.

UMass believes that education is imperative to addressing the issue of human trafficking. It’s increasingly important for nurses to have a grasp on social justice issues. As patient advocates and the voice for victims they treat, nurses need to know how to recognize human trafficking, understand how to communicate with the victim without putting them at increasing harm, and know what support systems and laws are available to help the victim.

To learn more about the UMass College of Nursing and its new online course on human trafficking, visit here.

University at Buffalo Nursing Students Volunteer in Greek Refugee Camp

University at Buffalo Nursing Students Volunteer in Greek Refugee Camp

Nine students from the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Nursing traveled 5,000 miles to the Greek Island of Lesvos to volunteer in a Greek refugee camp before returning to campus for the first week of classes. The nursing students were also joined by UB faculty and dental students to provide free screening and dental and health care to hundreds of refugees displaced by the civil war in Syria and ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

The weeklong humanitarian mission was a partnership between the UB schools of Dental Medicine and Nursing, the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and DocMobile. Their humanitarian efforts were focused in the Moria camp, a temporary home for thousands of refugees which is known for its poor living conditions.

UB’s mission was the first to provide dental care and advanced practice nurses to the residents of the refugee camp and students found the experience transformational. The students were exposed to working in a stressful environment with limited resources, giving them a newfound appreciation for treating patients with cultural humility.

Dental student Sara Perrone tells, “Regardless of your opinion on the matter of refugees, everyone is human and deserves to have the same opportunities for medical and dental care…I’m happy that I was able to do something about the crisis other than read about it in the news.” Another student from the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNO) program, Ilyana Rahman, added, “This experience provides students with the ability to respond to a global crisis and not sit idle while waiting for the crisis to resolve itself.”

To learn more about the UB School of Nursing and their humanitarian mission trip to provide health care aid in a Greek refugee camp, visit here.

Surviving Your First Year as a Nurse

Surviving Your First Year as a Nurse

So you’ve graduated from nursing school, passed the NCLEX, and gotten your first nursing job. All the hard work is done, right? …Not quite. While the path to becoming a practicing nurse may not be the easiest, the reality is that the work is just beginning. Your first year of being a nurse will most likely be incredibly difficult. You are going to struggle as you learn the vast number of skills that it takes to be a nurse in your specialty area. Here are a few tips to help you survive and thrive during your first year as a nurse:

1. Ask questions.

One of the best ways to learn as a new nurse is to ask lots of questions. A lot of people might be afraid to ask questions because then they have to admit that they don’t know something. This is a natural feeling, but remember that you are not expected to know everything. Having the courage to speak up will help you be a more knowledgeable nurse. If you’re not able to ask questions in the moment, try making a list of all of your questions. Then when you have down time later, you can ask your questions.

2. Get to know your coworkers.

During your first few weeks as a new nurse, take some time to get to know your coworkers. Remember their names and say hello to them in the halls. Eventually, over time, you will be able to develop relationships and create a network of people you know and trust. This is not only important for your job satisfaction, but also for your survival as a nurse. Your fellow nurses are the ones who will be there to support you during difficult days, laugh with you after funny situations, and help you in emergencies.

3. Take time to relax.

When you get a day off from work, make the most of it! Don’t think about work, your patients, or your charting. Take time to relax and de-stress. If your mind is constantly thinking of work, then you may be at risk of burning out. Try to find an activity that gets your mind off of work like hiking, hanging out with friends, or reading.

4. Learn how to prioritize.

It is very easy to become overwhelmed as a new nurse. You may have several different patients to care for, or one high acuity patient. Either way, you will have a multitude of tasks to complete during your shift, some planned and some unexpected. Try breaking down your day into hourly increments of time. Within that hour, ask yourself, “What is the most important task I need to accomplish and what is the least important task?” With this method, you will not only be able to organize your tasks, but you will also be able to react appropriately when something unexpected happens.

5. Set realistic goals.

Being a new nurse is extremely difficult. Give yourself time to struggle and learn the ins and outs of nursing. You won’t be a super star on your first day. In fact, it could take you years to truly feel like an expert in your nursing field. With that in mind, set small and realistic goals. By setting goals that are easily achievable, you will build your confidence. Try setting a goal to learn something new every day. This will help you feel successful after learning a new task or fact, rather than feeling defeated and beating yourself up for not knowing something.

6. Stay positive.

Some days are going to be more difficult than others. On these days, remember to stay positive. Every nurse has bad days, even an experienced nurse. If you are having trouble staying positive, try making a list of the things that went well during your day, rather than focusing on the negatives. Your first year as a nurse will fly by, and before you know it, you’ll begin to feel more confident and on your way to becoming an expert nurse.