At the age of 18, Eva Aguilar married and moved to Los Angeles from Iowa. She worked in factories, but quickly realized she wanted something more. “I couldn’t see myself doing that forever, and my parents, who were migrant workers, always encouraged me to strive for greater,” says Eva. She was the first in her family to graduate high school and would later become the first to graduate college as well.
Transferring medic experience to nursing
In the mid-1980s, Eva joined the U.S. Air Force as a medical service specialist, where she gained clinical experience. Eventually, she decided to pursue nursing and became a Registered Nurse through the Los Angeles County Department of Health/University of Southern California nursing program in 1992. Eva started her career at Los Angeles County Hospital on the medical-surgical floor in a step-down unit and in intensive care. In 1996, she and her husband returned to Iowa, where she joined Genesis Health System, working with patients with multi-system organ failure.
Joining the university setting
In 2000—while still at Genesis per diem—Eva joined the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. When she injured her back while working on the critical care unit, she was forced to make a change. “I stopped working at Genesis and left the bedside, moving into admissions and transfers,” says Eva. “We’re a 700-bed hospital with so much going on. This job is an important one and keeps me very busy.”
Time for more education
In 2013, a manager of Eva’s encouraged her to pursue a BSN. “She wanted me to step up to the challenge, and I’ll admit—I was pretty content to continue as a staff nurse,” she says. But as Eva considered different schools, her experience with American Sentinel helped her make the decision to start the program. “I loved the way American Sentinel’s people were so encouraging and helpful from the beginning. It was not easy, but with discipline and encouragement from your support system, it is definitely achievable.”
Eva’s BSN experience was so positive, in fact, that she decided to pursue American Sentinel’s MSN, nursing education specialization immediately after graduating with her bachelor’s. “As my department has evolved, I’ve taken on more training and teaching of staff, and I love it,” she says, adding that she hopes to work as a part-time clinical educator at a local community college when she graduates.”
Faced with tragedy
During her final semester of the BSN in 2015, Eva’s sister passed away from cancer. Then, just as she was about to begin her MSN a few months later, her older sister died unexpectedly from a heart attack. “I took some time off to deal with all of that,” says Eva. Despite the back-to-back tragedies, she never contemplated giving up. “My older sister was more like a mother to me and she wanted this for me. I’d promised both of them that I would finish. I knew I couldn’t go back on that promise.”
Fighting to the finish
In August 2016, Eva started the MSN, nursing education. She hopes to graduate in 2018. “It is more challenging, but I’ve gained so much knowledge,” she says. “The MSN has broadened my horizons and opened my eyes to a lot.” As for lessons learned, Eva says that her longtime belief that education matters has been reaffirmed. “Education opens doors. I’m very proud of myself and feel so satisfied that I’m doing it. I know I have a lot to offer and I know that doors will open for me because of the education I’m getting.”
Inspired by Eva’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing education, informatics, nursing management and organizational leadership, or infection control. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of these nursing fields. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.