After Natalia Rodriguez graduated high school, she decided to go to college to become a teacher. “I did three years in the teacher education program before I realized I wasn’t enjoying it,” says Natalia, who grew up in in Puerto Rico. She started thinking about other possibilities, and something drew her to nursing. Soon, she was enrolled in National College University’s Associate Degree of Nursing program. Natalia graduated in 2007.
Emergency room nursing
Natalia joined Auxilio Mutuo Hospital that same year as an RN in the Emergency Room. She loved the work and the adventure but as a mother of a young child, decided to move to Divina Presencia Hospice, where she had a schedule that worked better for her life. She continued to work PRN in the ER at Auxilio Mutuo.
A move to the United States
In 2012, Natalia and her two children, ages six and one, moved to Florida to live near her sister. “I wanted to build a better life for myself,” she says. The big challenge: Natalia was rusty with English, which she had learned in school as a child but not practiced since. As a single mother, however, she could not afford to take time to learn the language before applying for jobs, so Natalia did her best to quickly learn enough to get by and started applying places.
Hamilton Correctional Institution in Jasper, Florida, gave Natalia a chance based on her experience. “I loved it there,” says Natalia, who started as a charge nurse in the new palliative care program in 2012. In 2014, she had the opportunity to move up into a director of nursing position, overseeing the daily office operations of 25 employees. She became the director of nursing at Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City in 2015.
Back to patient care
As Natalia gained experience and became proficient in English, she became eager to return to the ER setting. She accepted a job at North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville to move closer to her fiancée (the two are now married). In early 2016, she joined Citrus Memorial as an ER nurse, where she continues to work today. “Working with patients is my love,” she says. “I love the pace and the environment of the ER and was excited to get back to it.”
At Citrus Memorial, Natalia was encouraged to consider returning to school for a BSN. “American Sentinel University came to our hospital in 2016 to share more about their programs, and I got a great feeling right away,” she says. “Going to school was something I had considered doing for a long time, but it took me a while to decide. But my employer was so great about encouraging us to set goals and think about our futures. When American Sentinel visited, I knew it was a sign.”
Eyes on the MSN Nurse Practitioner
Natalia enrolled in the BSN program in 2017 but knew that she wouldn’t stop there. After graduating in July 2018, she started the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner in the fall. “I didn’t consider going anywhere else,” she says. “American Sentinel is supportive and just makes things achievable.”
Once she completes the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner in 2020, Natalia says her goal is to expand her horizons. “I do love the ER and hope to stay working in it, but I know that being an NP will open up many different doors for me,” she says.
And, Natalia adds, the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner might not be where her journey stops. “I never thought I would be working toward a master’s degree, but here I am thinking that maybe one day, I’ll earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice too,” she says. “I love to learn and being in school reminds me of that. Continuing on for a doctorate could happen…we’ll see. I’ll never close that door.”
Inspired by Natalia’s story? A BSN is ideal for nurses who want to expand their knowledge base, become more marketable and enjoy greater career stability and mobility. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of nursing and when you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes. Have you dreamed of earning your BSN, MSN or DNP? With American Sentinel, you can make that dream a reality.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.