It isn’t enough for nursing student Maricel Gomez to grow her own skills and abilities; she wants to foster that desire in other nurses. That’s her goal now as she prepares to walk across the stage as a member of UNLV’s 2021 graduating class.
Throughout her four semesters in UNLV School of Nursing, Gomez not only found new ways to advance her clinical capabilities, but she also uncovered an innate passion for mentoring and educating. She fully realized the School of Nursing motto: Nurse Leaders Begin Here.
Connecting on a new level
Gomez affirms she learned more this semester than before as a level 4 student. Her final semester has been a whirlwind, taking critical care courses and working in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which brought increased hands-on interactions compared to more observational duties in previous levels.
“I was doing chest compressions pretty much every other shift,” she recalled. “I did a lot of the competency skills as well, like catheter insertion and IV insertions.” She also witnessed many cardiac-related procedures, including intra-aortic balloon pumps, and worked with patients coming fresh out of the operating room following cardiac surgery.
The new ICU experience took on a different tone for Gomez after her grandmother died of complications from COVID-19 in December. Seeing her grandmother intubated and living off a ventilator, she became even more connected to her patients.
“When I looked at those patients, I saw my Abuela, and I tried to take care of them as best as I could because it's different when it happens to a family member,” Gomez explained. “You are put in the family members’ place rather than being in the nurse's role, so now you're treating your patients with even more compassion.”
She channeled a heartbreaking feeling into something constructive that would benefit patients’ families. “I would educate them as much as I can because they're still in the dark about things. I was able to talk to them,
Relearning how to learn and lead
Gomez describes herself as the person who always sits in the front row of class, saying that’s how she feels she will learn. Hybrid courses due to COVID-19 changed that experience but she doesn’t feel like she missed a step thanks to the pre-recorded lectures. “I would re-watch lectures all the time, or I'd listen to them in my car as I'm driving somewhere,” she said. “That was an adjustment, but I think it's definitely a better study technique now because as I'm taking my tests, I hear my professor’s voice in my head to answer a question.”
Gomez has been mentoring a
Gomez plans to keep in touch post-graduation. "How about someone who was lost like me in the beginning? And now I see my mentee trying to go into these leadership positions."
Building the foundation for nursing success
As she prepares for commencement, Gomez already has her eyes on graduate school, specifically nurse education. “I think I want to be a level 1 instructor because that's where you set the foundation for success for the rest of the levels,” she said.
Whichever track she lands on, Gomez feels her purpose is to pass on her experience and energy to motivate future nurse leaders. “If my profession is to constantly push out amazing nurses that are inspired every day, that's awesome for me. I feel like that would be a job that would fulfill my life goal.”
For Gomez, the biggest lesson she’s learned in nursing school is recognizing the domino effect of maintaining a positive attitude among friends, colleagues, and patients.