Hunt School of Nursing Graduates Aim to Care for El Paso Community

Hunt School of Nursing Graduates Aim to Care for El Paso Community

Sixty-five students honored during pinning and commencement ceremony

Friday’s pinning and commencement ceremony at the Plaza Theatre marked the end of a challenging journey for 65 Hunt School of Nursing students.

The graduates said it was worth every minute and hour they willingly sacrificed for a rewarding career path that will make their families proud. Most importantly, they did it all for their community, which helped shaped them.

As degreed nurses, they’re now determined to look after their community.

“What I’m feeling right now is appreciation. The Hunt School of Nursing has put me in a position to accomplish what I want to do for this community, and that’s to help take care of it,” said Aidan Landa, who graduated from the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. “This community is special. It’s home, it’s family, and I’ve been in love with it ever since I was born.”

Currently, 87% of students from the Hunt School of Nursing are El Paso natives, like Landa, fulfilling Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s mission to create more educational opportunities for Borderland residents.

The pinning ceremony is a time-honored tradition for newly graduated nurses entering the profession. During the ceremony a friend or loved one, chosen by the graduate, presents them with a nursing pin. Hunt School of Nursing Dean Stephanie L. Woods, Ph.D., R.N., was the keynote speaker. She embraced the holiday season comparing the 2021 commencement to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

“It’s about hope. That’s the point of Scrooge’s story and your story,” Dr. Woods said. “Surely it was hope you had within you that told you that you can change your life for the better when you started this journey.”

And much like Ebenezer Scrooge does throughout the classic tale, Dr. Woods asked the class to reflect on the past and live in the present, but also brace for the future, especially during a critical time in history.

“You will help us beat this pandemic,” Dr. Woods told the class. “We wish you weren’t joining the professional ranks amid a worldwide pandemic, but unfortunately you are. You’re also about to join the most important generation of health care workers ever.”

This year, TTUHSC El Paso is celebrating the Hunt School of Nursing’s 10-year anniversary and its contributions to higher education, health care in the Paso del Norte region and combating the critical shortage of nurses in West Texas.

Ten years ago, El Paso County faced a 40% shortage of nurses compared to the national average. Today, and following the opening of the Hunt School of Nursing, the shortage has been reduced to 20%.

Landa hopes to continue the tradition of Hunt School of Nursing graduates making a difference in his community. He will be joining the staff at Del Sol Medical Center following his graduation.

“I hope to further educate people to enjoy fun times with family and friends, but also remain healthy so there are plenty more barbecues and quinceañeras to celebrate in the future,” Landa said.

The youngest graduate will be Angela Lopez at 19 years old. She graduated from Valle Verde Early College in 2020 with the prerequisite courses needed to enter the Accelerated program obtained from El Paso Community College. Earlier this year, Lopez also received a one-year lease for a 2021 Nissan Kicks from Casa Nissan and L&F Distributors. She was originally riding a bicycle to school.

“Everyone here is very supportive and they want you to grow and succeed,” said Lopez, who will work at El Paso Children’s Hospital. “I don’t think I would have seen that at any other institution. And I love the diversity we have here among my classmates. We are all different ages, have different levels of experience and we come from various backgrounds.”

To date, the Hunt School of Nursing has graduated more than 1,000 students, with a majority of those graduates staying in the region. The school has partnerships with every hospital in the El Paso community, which includes both clinical rotation opportunities and job placements post-graduation. 

That’s beneficial for graduate Pearl Villa, who has offers of employment from three hospitals: University Medical Center El Paso, Del Sol Medical Center and the Hospitals of Providence Sierra Campus. Originally a college business major, she enrolled in the Hunt School of Nursing to pursue her childhood dream of being a nurse. Villa is eager to pursue the opportunities ahead of her.

“I want to help the community by helping the people who live here. Working at a credit union satisfied that need for me at first, but I knew in my heart I wanted something else,” said Villa, who earned her B.S.N. through the school’s accelerated program. “In business, you have to go out and find work. But as I leave the Hunt School of Nursing, hospitals are seeking us out. It’s a sign that I made the right choice by coming here.”

The 65 graduates making up the fall Class of 2021 come from two programs: the Accelerated B.S.N. and R.N. to B.S.N.

The R.N. to B.S.N. program is for licensed nurses who have an associate’s degree or attended community college. To receive a bachelor’s degree, they must complete 30 credit hours at the Hunt School of Nursing. A bachelor’s degree offers nurses a wider choice of employment and opportunities for promotion. 

The Accelerated B.S.N. program allows students to take up to 17 credit hours per semester for four successive semesters and complete 1,008 hours of required clinical rotations. The rigorous program allows students to finish their nursing education in 16 months. The Hunt School of Nursing has the only accelerated nursing program in the region.

Check out our photos from the event: