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Reflecting on Graduating and Finding Purpose During Uncertain Times

Photo of Andrew Martinez with CHRP logo

Graduating From College During the Pandemic

It’s mind-blowing to think that December 2019 was almost three years ago. I remember one of my first post-graduation tasks was to renew my passport while I was in the process of applying to Graduate School. As someone who loved to plan, I optimistically thought I’d be accepted to a program related to my degree by the Summer, and I’d get to go abroad since I never took advantage of studying abroad in school. And then… COVID-19 shut down my leisure and career plans. 

I interviewed for my dream grad program over Zoom, my in-person graduation was canceled, and I was more isolated than ever. Nothing I learned in undergrad could have prepared me for that early phase of the Pandemic. 

Fear related to uncertainty was one of the primary themes of the Lockdown. I was terrified about what I would do with my bachelor’s degree, especially compared to those with more job-secure majors like engineering and accounting. I knew the first step to getting over that fear was to get my brain out of the full-time student mindset and take a job where I could apply my skills.

Entering the Workforce: Starting from Scratch

Like many college graduates, I decided I needed a gap year to build up my resume. In college, I worked as a veterinary assistant, so my original plan was to make that my full-time gig while I lived at home to save money. My first token of advice is that plans almost always unravel, so be aware and prepare to adapt Lucky for me I had the support of my family to start figuring out my path.

I enrolled in community college classes and obtained my EMT certification with the intention of using it to gain valuable human healthcare experience. In September 2020, after becoming a nationally certified EMT, I set a 12-month goal to be accepted into Nursing School. It took thirteen applications, twelve of which were flat-out rejected, and 18 months to finally enroll in an Accelerated BSN program. During that interim period, I learned how to provide patient-centered care in outpatient and in-patient settings, while also ascertaining countless lessons on determination and bravery from some of my colleagues. All of which helped me to develop the resiliency to not let the rejection letters weigh me down. 

Why Nursing?

I chose Nursing because I could become an advocate for the health and well-being of marginalized patients. Nurses are Swiss-army knives. They use leadership techniques to delegate tasks, lend an ear that patients trust wholeheartedly, and provide total care at the same time. The feedback I received from my patients and coworkers led me to believe that I could be there to support others in some of the hardest times of their lives. Ever since I started school, my clinical experience has reinforced that I made the right choice, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey. I was also blessed to have nurses in my family who were role models for me including my Aunt Theresa and my Grandma Daisy.

Advice for College Students?

My number one tidbit of advice is to choose a school and program because you personally are drawn to it; not because other people want you to do it. Don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself to other people. Enjoy the uniqueness of your life path and appreciate the speed bumps you hit along the way. 

When you start school, find your support group as soon as possible. The pandemic provided enough isolation for a lifetime, human beings rely on each other to survive and thrive. The connections you build now will stay with you for the rest of your life, but you have to take the first step of putting yourself out there. Once you put in that initial effort, the rest figures itself out along the way.

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