Seventy-six students who completed the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing were recognized during a commencement and pinning ceremony Saturday, Dec. 14, at The Plaza Theatre. Thirty-two registered nurses (R.N.s) who completed the school’s R.N. to B.S.N. program were also honored.
Students in the Accelerated B.S.N. program take up to 17 credit hours per semester for four successive semesters. The rigorous program allows students to graduate in 16 months after working through a curriculum designed for cross-disciplinary collaboration. This is the only accelerated nursing program in the region.
During the commencement ceremony, students received a surprise when it was announced the entire class received the DAISY In Training Award from The DAISY (Diseases Attacking the Immune System) Foundation for their important roles in two local hospitals following the Aug. 3 mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart. The DAISY Foundation was created to honor and celebrate the care and compassion of direct care nurses, nursing faculty and nursing students.
“This graduating class will always be linked to the tragic events of the Aug. 3 mass shooting at the Cielo Vista-area Walmart,” said Stephanie Woods, Ph.D., R.N., dean of the Hunt School of Nursing and keynote speaker of the commencement. “On that day, members of this graduating class’ Accelerated B.S.N. program were at UMC and Del Sol Medical Center when those two emergency departments received victims of the shooting.”
Ten nursing students were at University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) and 15 students were at Del Sol Medical Center that day.
“We learned how the nursing and medical staff at UMC and Del Sol had taken you under their wings, kept you close and let you help where you could,” Dr. Woods said as she addressed the students. “I heard of students who had done CPR, assisted in the operating room and worked with trauma teams to do whatever was necessary to help the victims. Many of you held victims’ hands and reassured them as best you could.”
Chantell Quiroz, who graduated from the Accelerated B.S.N. program Saturday, will be interning in the labor and delivery department at Las Palmas Medical Center beginning in February, with a guaranteed job following the internship. She was working a clinical rotation on Aug. 3 at UMC when the shooting victims were brought in.
“You see the bullets, you see the blood, but in that moment, you’re working. I didn’t have time to feel, because it was one patient after another. It was very difficult because you’re there and, at least for me, I didn’t feel it until I left the rotation that day,” Quiroz said. “The faces of people, the looks on people, that stays with you, and I think it was a very good learning opportunity medically and nursing-wise. But as a person, it hurt. It definitely hurt.”
Esai Barrios, who also graduated from the Accelerated B.S.N. program on Saturday, would like to work in a neuro ICU or medical ICU. He has not settled on a job as he weighs his options. He was also working at UMC on Aug. 3.
“It has helped me realize that anything can happen at any time,” Barrios said of the mass shooting.
Barrios said one silver lining that came from tragedy is that people are more caring and more loving. He also said it’s led him to remember the things in life that can bring a smile.
“I came home and hugged my mom a little tighter, I hugged my brothers a little tighter,” he said. “I’m more grateful for the little things that happen. The other day, my cousin sent me a small ID badge holder, and I wanted to cry. I was happy because we’re still able to enjoy those little small things, and knowing that anything can be taken from us at any time makes me realize I should enjoy the little things.”
Dr. Woods added that she believes many in this class will choose emergency and critical care nursing because of their experience on Aug. 3. In this group of graduates, and among all of the Hunt School of Nursing’s students, she sees future leaders for trauma centers.
“There were countless other students from our R.N. to B.S.N. program and our master’s program that were involved in some way in the events of Aug. 3, either in a direct-care role or in caring for those in the aftermath,” she said.
Check out our gallery of photos from commencement below: