My full name (at birth) is Aurelia Marie Anne R. L.Cruz… quite a long name to be writing in school from kindergarten until I graduated from college. When I immigrated to the US in 1990, I just had to cut it short to Aurelia Cruz to avoid the confusion from banks, employments, social security, etc. But you don’t have to struggle to call me Aurelia like most people do. Everyone calls me Mimi. When I was born, I had twin sisters who are a year older than me who tried to say “baby,” but instead said “Mimi.”
I was born in Manila, Philippines in a big family of 7 kids and I was the middle child. My father was a civil engineer and my mother was a nurse, and they managed to get us all through college without us having to work. I am so blessed to have them as my parents because of all the sacrifices they had to go through for us, but most of all, because they have raised us in prayer and faith.
I have never been a studious type of student. Growing up, I was the most naughty and mischievous daughter among four girls. I always daydreamed in the classroom or wandered around the school after recess, only for our school nun to come looking for me a few minutes after the “recess is over” bell rings.
In my fourth year of high school, I had to think about what I wanted to study in college. I couldn’t think of any particular course I really wanted, because what I wanted was arts or music. My parents were very practical people and they were only thinking of my future. So they said no to arts or music. My mother was an assistant professor in the University of the Philippines (UP) teaching Community Health nursing. She encouraged me to go to Nursing and since there was really nothing else that interested me, I said yes.
Admission to UP was not easy. Interested students need to pass the UP College Admission Test to get into the university, and only a few percentage of applicants do. So there were only about 45 students in our class for the whole nursing department. Only 25 of us made it after 4 years.
After graduation, I worked in the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, the largest university and government hospital in the country. It was in my 2 years working in the Neurosurgical ICU that I learned almost all the basic skills that a nurse needs to have. I developed skills in IV, tracheostomy care, foley catheter insertion, interpreting ABGs/labs, administering critical IV meds, etc. Although it was an ICU setting, there were hardly any vents and no heart monitor. Families take turn to ambubag the patients 24/7. This is why I learned to be very creative and resourceful in learning how to keep our patients alive. I learned the skill of making critical decisions that meant life and death for many of our patients.
When I immigrated to the US, I never thought of going back to school. In the early 1990s, my classmates were already in graduate school while I was preoccupied looking for my future soul mate. And I was successful in that endeavor and got married to an OR nurse whom I met in the Big Apple. We now have three wonderful boys ages 13, 9, and 6.
Years of procrastination passed and I finally succumbed to the calling for higher education… I went for my MSN at Regis University. I realized that learning is a life long journey, and that all I have is a gift from God that I need to give him back through service to others. As if God sent me an angel one day, that after so many mails and calls from different universities, I just decided to go to an open house that The College Network was having in NJ. I didn’t even know that the university will be Regis, nor did I know anything about Regis. But I believe it was God’s hands all along.
After a rigorous MSN program with Regis, I vowed to myself “never again.” I have never studied as hard in my life as I did now. Sleep was no longer a routine for me, but a luxury. I never got to watch TV, go to friends’ gatherings or any parties for all the years I was in school. I worked full time night shifts and had an almost 2 year old then, who literally grew up beside me while I was on the computer doing on-line studies. But it was all worth it. Ah, the glory of being able to say to myself, “I made it!” (with God’s help).
I heard about the DNP program that will be starting at Regis during graduation last December of 2009, but never paid much attention to it. Remember I made a vow “never again!” After a few months of brain rest, as if I was yearning for more, I went to the Regis website and checked out the DNP program. Before this, I checked other doctorate programs in other universities and none of them hit the right button except Regis. It was the service-oriented and God-centered values of Regis reflected in the curriculum that made this program the perfect fit for me. Learning became for me an addicting substance that I cannot live without. And so here I am… back for more sleepless nights of reading and writing, but the most challenging of all is using my neurons to think and reflect critically and creatively. And like how I felt after I completed my MSN with Regis, I am so sure this is a decision that I will never regret.
Now whether I regret taking up nursing in college (after 23 years)… no, I don’t. Nurses are a gift from God to the world to tender the sick, to ease the pain, to cleanse the wounds, to calm the restless, to listen to their life stories, to hold their hands, and to simply be there when no one else can be. Nursing is not just a profession, but also a vocation in life to give back to God what he has so freely given.