58 future nurses receive white coats

Step.- The decision to become a nurse should not be taken lightly and Andraya Luna and René Luján take it very seriously.

Both are part of 58 Hunt School of Nursing students who officially began their nursing school careers with a White Coat Ceremony on Tuesday, January 10, at the El Paso campus of the University’s Health Sciences Center. Texas Tech (TTUHSC).

Luna knew she wanted to go into the health care field since she was a student at Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet School, across the street from TTUHSC El Paso.

The tragic death of her father from COVID-19 in 2020 led her to a career in nursing.

“He was in the hospital for a month and a lot was unknown about COVID at the time,” Luna said. “Looking back now, seeing what the nurses went through is what inspired me. Seeing my dad being cared for, and I only got to see him on FaceTime, really made me want to be a nurse even more.”

Another reason the El Paso native wants to pursue a career in nursing is the opportunity to provide care to underserved members of our community.

“It means everything to me to take care of those less fortunate,” she said. “I think that’s what we need to strive for if we’re able to give back. I want to have an impact on people who need help and use my empathy in a positive way.”

The white coat ceremony is a traditional rite of passage that welcomes students into health care education. TTUHSC El Paso is the only university in El Paso to hold a white coat ceremony for nursing students. The coats and stethoscopes the students received were provided thanks to generous donors and alumni.

The ceremony included the recitation of the oath of the students, the delivery of white coats to each nursing student and a keynote speech. The celebration is intended to emphasize the combination of compassion and scientific excellence that new students will embrace as they earn their nursing degrees.

Other than for a brief time in 2020, René Luján, of Socorro, Texas, hasn’t set foot in a classroom since 1999. That doesn’t make the 61-year-old Army veteran and licensed professional counselor nervous, though.

“Considering my age and situation, I don’t have time to do four or five years in school,” said Luján. “I heard a lot of good things about the accelerated program from some friends who went through it. I’m excited to go back to school with all these young people.”

Luján, who has worked at a psychiatric hospital for about 30 years, plans to use her nursing skills to help her fellow veterans, whom she calls “brothers.”

All but two of the new students at the Hunt School of Nursing are from the El Paso area. Currently, 87 percent of nursing students are native El Pasoans, furthering the TTUHSC El Paso mission of creating more educational opportunities for Borderplex residents.

The Hunt School of Nursing offers programs to help RNs earn a Bachelor of Science (BSN) as well as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

The institution has the only accelerated program in the region where students can earn a BSN degree in as little as 16 months.

The school’s programs include online and in-person instruction, offering flexibility for working students. This means that program graduates can join their nursing colleagues in the workforce sooner rather than later to help combat local health disparities and increase access to healthcare for residents.

The school features an interdisciplinary curriculum, which prepares students to work on clinical teams alongside physicians. Students are also prepared for leadership positions in hospitals and clinics.

According to recent data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, less than 6 percent of registered nurses in the country are Hispanic. With a student body made up of 84 percent Hispanic, Hunt School of Nursing graduates will join America’s much-needed Hispanic nurses to help diversify the workforce and reduce language and cultural barriers in Health Care.

The state of Texas is projected to face a shortfall of nearly 16,000 registered nurses by 2030, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services West Texas faces a shortage of more than 3,000 nurses, according to the Center for Research of the Texas Nursing Workforce.

Since its opening in 2011, 1,252 nurses have graduated from the Hunt School of Nursing, with 90 percent remaining in the region. As a result, the number of registered nurses in the county increased by 45 percent.

Students at the Hunt School of Nursing are well prepared when they graduate because the school has partnerships with all of the El Paso community hospitals. Hospital partnerships include clinical rotation opportunities and post-graduation job placements, helping to meet the critical need for nurses.

58 future nurses receive white coats