Local resident awarded scholarship to continue nursing education

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Nursing has always been her first love, but it is the second career of Marquita Torres, of Belen.

Her love of caring for people finally pushed her to overcome her fears and pursue a career in nursing as well as the opportunities that follow.

Courtesy of University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus: Presenting University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus nursing student Marquita Torres, center, with a $1,000 scholarship to continue her nursing education are former nursing education director John Austin, left, and interim nursing education director Dianna Johnston, right.

It was recently announced that Torres is one of seven students in the state who received a $1,000 Nightingale Scholarship from the New Mexico Center for Nursing Excellence to pursue a nursing degree.

“I didn’t know it was a prestigious award when I applied,” Torres said. “If I had, I probably wouldn’t have applied.”

Torres is in her final semester of her associate degree in nursing at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus. She is the past president of the UNM-Valencia Student Nurses Association and a member of the National Student Nurses Association.

Born and raised in Veguita, the mother of three says she always wanted to be a nurse, but was afraid of the science classes necessary for the field.

Wanting to pursue a degree of some kind, she attended UNM-VC after graduating from Belen High School and earned an associate degree in business in 2000.

“I hated it,” Torres said with a laugh. “I love the school, it’s great, but business? I just didn’t like sitting still. It wasn’t for me.”

So six years ago, Torres faced her fears head on and began working towards a nursing degree.

“It’s the best move I’ve ever made,” she said. “I love caring for people.”

In 2004, Torres took a job as a scrub technician at Women’s Hospital in the labor and delivery department.

It was there she learned how mentally brutal the field was. Running between work, homework, caring for her family and clinicals, Torres was exhausted. But she never gave up.

“It was hard on my family. They probably wanted to kill me,” she admits.

But on May 14, Torres will realize the real beginning of her dream as she receives her associate degree in a pinning ceremony for the third nursing cohort to graduate from UNM-VC since the program’s inception in 2008.

After that, she can work as a graduate nurse, but her next step is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination to become a registered nurse.

And she’s not stopping there. Torres will continue her education in September, enrolling in online courses to earn her bachelors in nursing, then her masters.

“I don’t want to stop,” Torres said about pursuing at least two more nursing degrees.

She is still on the fence about pursuing a doctorate degree.

With the higher degrees, Torres can apply for positions, such as a charge nurse or nurse manager at a hospital.

During her clinical rotations at the University of New Mexico Hospital, Torres quickly learned what she does and does not want from her nursing career.

Working with critical patients was what Torres said gave her the most satisfaction in the field.

“I love taking care of people and I love not knowing what’s going to happen day to day,” she said.

When she did her orthopedics rotation, the work was very much a known quantity.

“I knew what to expect for a hip replacement, a knee replacement. There was a protocol to follow,” Torres said.

She said while she loved taking care of the patients, that little edge of adrenaline that comes from working with critical patients was missing.

Torres also came to the hard realization that she didn’t have what it took to work pediatrics, a speciality that once interested her.

“Before I did my peds rotation, I didn’t realize how much child abuse goes on, how many of the peds patients at UNM-H are there due to abuse,” she said.

Torres remembers caring for a 6 month old with a spinal cord injury and broken bones in various stages of healing.

“There was always one to two patients on the peds floor, if not more, that were there due to abuse,” she said. “It was hard to let go of at the end of the day. I carried it a lot. This job takes an emotional toll.”

But even with that toll, Torres said if anyone wants to go into nursing because that’s where their heart leads them, it’s the perfect field.

“If you are just doing it for the money, you’ll have a hard time and burn out quick,” she said. “We need good nurses. There are so many options in the field — specialties. This is something where you never stop learning. Every day you can learn something new and teach something new. That’s what I love, that continuum.”

The NMCNE has awarded seven 2014 Nightingale Scholarships to nursing school students in graduate studies as well as bachelor of science, associate degree and practical nursing programs to help them continue to pursue their education.

Scholarship recipients were chosen on the basis of academic achievement, a personal essay, recommendations from faculty at their nursing schools and financial need.

“These outstanding students are from diverse areas of the state, have very different backgrounds and interests and are in various stages of their careers. They all share a commitment to truly make a difference in the lives of their patients and the health of their communities,” said Joie Glenn, president of the board of directors of NMCNE. “We are honored to be able to help them achieve their degrees and look forward to the contributions they will make in the years to come.”


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.