If Denise Hernandez has a tough day at work, she always knows there’s a reward waiting just around the corner.
A pediatric nurse at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, Hernandez (’14 Nursing) says her interactions with pediatric patients and their families validate her career path every day.
“When I am able to comfort my patient with a hug, provide relief for an exhausted parent, or hear my patients laugh or see them smile, that reminds me why I am a pediatric nurse,” she said. “It is amazing how comforting a parent or child can make you feel like you made a world of difference.”
Born and raised in Oxnard, Hernandez realized her dream of becoming a nurse early and never wavered from her goal. She attended Ventura College for her associate’s degree in nursing, worked for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department throughout college as a student aid, and earned her BSN in CI’s accelerated program while also working as a Registered Nurse in the Pediatrics Department at Ventura County County Medical Center.
“Although I was already in my career field when I started CI, the Nursing program gave me better tools and understanding of what it meant to be in a leadership position,” she said. “I was inspired to push myself further in my career, and not only to look for opportunities to make my workplace better, but also gain an understanding of how things are accomplished with healthcare administration.”
She describes her time in CI’s 14-month “Fast Track” BSN program as fun and challenging. She says CI’s professors made the rigorous program enjoyable by sharing their practical expertise and sense of humor, as well as by offering students snacks and making them stretch during class. For her final assignment, Hernandez worked with the Director of Education and the Director of Nursing at West Hills Hospital to help develop a curriculum for its new Graduate RN Residency program.
“It was a very stressful assignment, but I had a tremendous amount of help from my preceptors that allowed me access to all information I needed,” she said. “It gave me a vast understanding and appreciation for hospital administration and the amount of resources, coordination, planning, and investment it takes to hire a new nurse or graduate.”
At Cottage Hospital since September, Hernandez spends her days starting IVs, collecting labs, taking vital signs, performing assessments, administering medication, and spending time getting to know patients and their families.
An avid traveler, Hernandez volunteered for a medical relief trip last year into the jungles of Nicaragua, where she helped provide free healthcare for villagers with limited access. She plans to return to school one day to earn her degree as a Nurse Practitioner.
“I have the opportunity to heal not only the body, but the heart, soul and mind of our patients and their families,” she said. “I always work with one of my favorite quotes from Patch Adams in mind: ‘You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.’”