When Alona Angosta arrived in Nevada as a young teenager, it wasn’t necessarily by choice. Her parents settled here after retiring from their careers in the military. But when it came time to pick a college, the decision was entirely hers: Stay close to home or head elsewhere. Ultimately, Angosta chose the former, for one primary — and very important — reason: “I selected UNLV because I felt welcomed.”
In the three decades since, Angosta, UNLV's 2020 Outstanding Faculty Award winner, has passed along that welcoming feeling to countless others, first as a nursing student and now as a tenured member of her alma mater’s faculty. In fact, Angosta’s Rebel roots run so deep that she currently directs the very postgraduate nursing program from which she earned the second of her two UNLV degrees, a master's of science in nursing in 2000. She earned a bachelor's in nursing in 1994.
Angosta’s accomplishments in nursing are vast, and span both the clinical and academic aspects of the field. After completing her master’s, she traveled across the Pacific to the University of Hawaii at Manoa to earn her doctorate, then returned home in 2006 when she joined UNLV’s faculty as an assistant professor.
Besides working as an educator for the past 14 years — five of which were spent completing the university’s demanding tenure-track program — Angosta has been a board-certified family nurse practitioner for nearly two decades. Her work in primary care, internal medicine, acute care, and military medicine was preceded by a stint as a registered nurse in the cardiovascular care unit, trauma intensive care unit, and primary/urgent care clinics.
Angosta has been nationally recognized for her scholarly work that has focused on the cardiovascular health of Filipino Americans, which has been the central theme of many of her research and collaborative efforts. She also has published dozens of articles in peer-reviewed journals, given presentations at several national and international nursing and scientific conferences, and won numerous awards, including the outstanding researcher award from the Nevada Nurses Association and 2020 Nurse Practitioner State Advocate for Excellence from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Showing her deep commitment to and passion for both UNLV and her profession, Angosta is a trusted and valued mentor who has advised hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom are now thriving as practicing nurses and/or educators throughout Nevada and beyond.
The coronavirus pandemic has reminded all of us about the power and importance of being resilient. Share an example from your career that showed your resiliency.
As a clinician, I have several examples, from caring for patients suffering (and recovering) from their worst health conditions to witnessing patients catch their last breath under my care. As an academic, I’ve had to balance taking care of student and faculty concerns with surviving a five-year tenure track where I had to prove my worth and contributions in the areas of research, teaching, and service.
I thought those were difficult times. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When it rapidly spread, our graduate students’ clinical rotations were suspended in the middle of the spring semester, which forced me to act swiftly for our students to continue their clinical learning experience, meet course outcomes, and finish their semester coursework. There were sleepless nights and trepidations, but that didn’t stop me. In collaboration with course coordinators and faculty, we developed a contingency plan that included (among other things) virtual clinical cases in lieu of direct patient care.
At the same time, I also worked with my team to rework the summer semester program. Since our nursing program is a trimester, we didn’t have a lot of time, but we developed creative ways to deliver clinical learning remotely, such as the virtual live-streamed clinical experience with students, and faculty utilizing robots and standardized patients. While all this was happening, a family member became ill (thank goodness, he recovered well).
These were definitely challenging, humbling and life-changing experiences, but I do believe every cloud has a silver lining. I could have been negative about the entire situation, but I thought about my purpose and chose to rise to the challenge. Keeping my family safe and helping our students succeed are my utmost priorities.
What advice do you have for today’s UNLV nursing students as they try to navigate our changed world?
In response to the pandemic, our students are embarking on an incredibly challenging journey. So my first piece of advice is to be proactive. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, get involved with finding solutions, and have the audacity to stand up for what is right so you can safely protect yourself and others.
We have heard the testimonies of nurses, physicians, and hospital support staff working on the frontlines during the pandemic and their desperate plea for personal protective equipment. Before going to clinical, always inquire about the availability of PPE, as well as the policies regarding infection control. Then ensure that your clinical agency upholds these protocols.
Nurses are the backbone of health care, and our role is now more vital than ever. Your voice will be even more important as you make decisions that will impact patient lives and the health care system.
Secondly, don’t forget to take care of yourself and support your colleagues. The profession is already stressful, even more so during this time of uncertainty. Prevent mental and physical burnout by talking to friends and peers, and exercise both your mind and body through deep-breathing techniques, mediating, walking, jogging, stretching, etc.
Finally, always remember that nursing is not about wearing scrubs, carrying a stethoscope, or earning an income. It’s a noble calling, a passion to serve and care, and a willingness to make sacrifices — especially during trying times like this.