Thursday, at the University of Texas at Arlington, the newest nursing school graduates crossed the stage. They're prepared to join thousands on the front lines of a global pandemic.
It was a proud moment for Catalina Torres. She’s a first-generation graduate who will join the team at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas as an ER nurse.
“It’s a calling. Nursing is a calling and I’m very excited, if anything. Very motivated,” she said.
When she entered nursing school, there was no global pandemic. Terms like ‘social distancing’ were not part of everyday conversation.
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“It’s not for everybody and that’s one of the things that I told my mom whenever she was like ‘you just need to quit, just quit your job,’” said Torres. “But I’m like this is what I’m going in for as far as my career. And, at least for me, it was like if not me then who’s going to do it?”
She’ll join more than 3,000 nurses who’ve graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington since the start of the pandemic. Her class will enter the field on the heels of a revelation by Parkland Hospital Chief Medical Officer Joseph Chang that his staff is down 500 nurses from where it should be.
Fellow graduate, Stanley George, was inspired by his mother who is a nurse of 30 years.
“She could stay home but she chose to stay on the front lines and help with the fight against this pandemic. And I want to join that fight,” said George.
He joins the workforce at a critical time. ICU beds are filling up across North Texas. His colleagues, having already battled the virus for 19 months, are exhausted. Commencement speaker Steve Love of the DFW Hospital Council shared words of encouragement for entering the field.
“I definitely believe that this is a calling on my life because I just always felt like nursing is not just an occupation but it’s also a ministry," said George.