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
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
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.”