When Minority Nurse Scholarship finalist, Erika Colindres, was asked about her view of nursing as a career, she often takes a broad view.
Nursing, she says, is about so much more than medicine. “A nurse isn’t just a health care provider,” she says. “They are cheerleaders and they push patients on.”
Colindres realized the impact a single nurse can have on so many lives, especially the lives of those who can otherwise get lost in the system because they have a language barrier that prevents full understanding.
“I became really interested in this when I started my internship,” Colindres says of her post-grad opportunity through the University of Michigan. Colindres worked with MHP Salud, an organization that deals with health care issues of migrant farm workers. “Lots of the workers only spoke Spanish,” she says. “Some things get lost in translation and the workers told me that’s why they don’t go to a doctor or a nurse. But they won’t get proper care.”
As the daughter of immigrant parents, the ramifications of translation problems have surfaced in her own life. Her mom recently went to her physician for one problem and came home with medication unrelated to her complaints. When Colindres questioned her mom and called the physician, they realized he misunderstood what Colindres’ mother was saying.
Colindres says she would like to be in health care so she can help her community in some way. The thought of a patient coping with a health problem or crisis then having a language barrier to overcome is daunting, she says. And while Colindres says the medical field has fascinated her since middle school, it was the realization of how close nurses are to patients that redirected this once-premed major to nursing school.
Because nurses work so closely with patients and see them constantly, they learn what is normal for a patient. “If something goes wrong, the nurse is the first one to know,” says Colindres. “I would rather be that person.”
Because nursing is so varied, Colindres feels like her previous schooling will serve her well. “I took a different route,” she says. Colindres graduated with her bachelor’s in biology from St. Lawrence University in 2012. This September, Colindres begins an accelerated nursing program at New Jersey City University. The program takes a year and is intense, but Colindres is excited. “I am full of emotion,” she says. “I’m nervous, excited, stressed. I can’t wait.”
Colindres’ recent work as a clinical research coordinator at a reproductive health office has shown her what she would like to use her nursing degree for in the future. “Hopefully, I will have a job in a labor and delivery unit,” says Colindres. “Eventually, if all goes well, I want to be a a midwife.” Although she knows that career means many more years of school, Colindres says she feels like she is on the right path for her. And she’s especially glad to be there if there are any language barriers to overcome.
“It makes me happy that I am helping my community,” she says.