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by Sarah K. Gabot

Twenty stories above the busy streets of Ala Moana, Ellen Mae Valdez pushed aside her stacks of notes and nursing books. Her apartment is peaceful; the evening tradewinds brush past. Her most precious moments with friends and family are protected in picture frames, reminding her daily that she is thousands of miles away from home.

Like many California students at HPU, Valdez is pursuing nursing, a seemingly impossible program to get into in many California colleges. Upon acceptance to HPU, Valdez jumped at the opportunity to join its Nursing program. “I grew up with it,” Valdez said, with her feet casually kicked up on a chair, “All of my mom’s friends were nurses.”

Valdez reminisced about her mother as her inspiration. She remembered the nights when her mother would arrive home feeling fulfilled. “She is in control of everything that she does,” Valdez said.
Valdez wanted to feel that same strength. She wanted to someday come home with the same satisfaction as her mother does. Valdez, who is a Filipino American, said, “In the Philippines, becoming a nurse is a noble profession.”

Although HPU is far away from home for some, it isn’t too hard for Californian nursing students to find each other.

Anne Villaruz, also a nursing major from California, met Valdez through a mutual friend. She often studies with Valdez on weeknights.

California nursing degree-seekers are desperately trying to find alternative nursing schools away from home. “The standards are high in California,” said Villaruz, “They ask for so many things like a letter of recommendation and lists of extracurricular activities.” She said nursing students from California are flocking to schools in Hawai‘i and Nevada, two states that are close to California, hoping to get into Nursing programs faster.

As a certified nurse assistant , Villaruz has a knack for the fast-paced environment. She finds it exciting to see and know the procedures occurring in hospital rooms.

For Villaruz, it’s the excitement of the hands-on activities that keeps her in the field. “I like being able to jump in,” Villaruz said. “Besides job stability, there’s room to move around—you can switch departments, so you’re never bored.”

Villaruz, born in the Philippines and raised in Milpitas, California, was inspired by her parents. Villaruz’ mom is an licensed vocational nurse and her dad is a CNA. “When my parents came home, they’d tell stories of what happened at work,” said Villaruz, “It brought curiosity—I wanted to learn more.”

In the Philippines, nursing is a very popular degree to seek, and with the influence of immigrant parents, their children continue to pursue this dream.

Even professions that would be considered prestigious in America are not as esteemed as nursing in the Philippines. “Doctors in the Philippines are taking nursing classes to become nurses, just to have a better opportunity,” said Villaruz. There’s a higher demand for nurses internationally. Therefore, “it’s a way to get out of the country. It’s a passport to get out of poverty,” Villaruz said.

After fall 2007 and four and a half years of studying nursing at HPU, Jon Felarca’s neck to his chin was filled with orchid leis after he crossed his graduation stage. He achieved what many students are striving for, the status of being a registered nurse. He soon landed a job in Fremont, CA, at Washington Memorial Hospital, and left Hawai‘i for what he calls his “destiny” on March 24, 2008.
Looking back on his academic career, he noted that nurses never truly close their nursing books. In the medical field, nursing procedures and technologies frequently change, so nurses need to always be receptive and adaptive. On the other hand, it will always keep nurses on their toes, never allowing them to get bored of routine. “In nursing, you’re in school until you retire,” Felarca said. “It’s a continuous journey of learning.”





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