Meet Julissa Cervantes
Julissa Cervantes always wanted to work in healthcare. She initially thought she’d go to medical school, but decided the best way to reach her goal of providing care to people in rural Northwest Arkansas was in nursing.
“After much consideration, I came to the conclusion that I needed to go to nursing school,” she said. “I want to make an impact on people’s lives. I want to teach people how to prevent illnesses and to help those who are ill.”
Julissa, a first-generation student at the University of Arkansas, moved with her family from Mexico to Northwest Arkansas when she was in second grade. At the U of A, she’s part of the Honors College and is also on the Chancellor’s and Dean’s lists.
“I feel anxious to be a nurse, but it’s also something I have been preparing for,” she said. “I believe I am ready to start working, especially now that my community needs my help.”
Before the COVID-19 crisis halted in-person clinical rotations, Julissa spent most of her waking hours learning in local hospital settings three weeks at a time. She interned in cardiology at Washington Regional Medical Center and Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and on the maternal/newborn floor at Mercy. Julissa earned a grade instead of a paycheck, but said the benefits can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
“It’s a way of gaining clinical experience before I get to do it by myself in the real world,” Julissa said. “A clinical day is about nine hours. During those days we didn’t have classes, but working at the hospital was more beneficial than what I would learn from a book.”
In addition to the rigorous training before graduation, clinical rotations helped Julissa build connections in the community.
“The advice I would give others hoping to join the nursing program is to stay focused on your goal and to be determined,” she said. “Nursing school is a challenge, but it is doable. I advise to appreciate the free time, be flexible if something changes, pace yourself, and celebrate the small accomplishments along the way.”
Julissa eventually wants to be a Family Nurse Practitioner.
“I plan to return to school a couple of years after graduation and obtain my degree as an FNP,” she said. “Once that happens, I want to work in a clinic that has a focus on rural areas of Northwest Arkansas. I think access to healthcare is an issue, so if there’s a way to do home health or work in a clinic that offers services to everyone, that would be my ultimate dream.”
Prior to COVID-19 changes, Julissa volunteered at Circle of Life, a nonprofit hospice that serves Northwest Arkansas.
“As a volunteer I did direct patient care, both inpatient and outpatient, and volunteered at the front desk,” she said.
She also volunteered at the Fayetteville Animal Shelter, socializing dogs and helping facilitate their successful adoptions through social media.
Julissa studied abroad in Spain last summer at the Universidad Antonio de Nebrija. The four-week, faculty-led program in Madrid allowed her to earn credit hours toward her Spanish minor.
“It was an all-immersive experience, meaning everything we did and everywhere we went we had to use our Spanish,” she said. “I lived with a host family and got to travel to different areas of Spain. My study abroad experience is something I will forever cherish.”
Julissa said her host family is doing well amid the coronavirus outbreak.
You’re going to be a great nurse, Julissa!
This is one in a series of Dean’s Spotlight stories, featuring outstanding students in the College of Education and Health Professions. Visit the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing for more information about how to become a nurse!