Gonzales currently practices in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the University Medical Center Brackenridge (UMCB) in Austin, Tex.
Q. What was it like to transition from being a student to a practicing nurse?
A. The transition from student to nurse was quite different than what I expected. The role of a student is to learn, and I think the weight of the professional nursing role is not tangible until you are at the bedside, taking complete responsibility for the lives of each patient.
When I started working in my unit, I realized that the learning curve is quite steep. Each day I remind myself how important my job is, and I use that to drive myself forward to the next challenge. Overcoming obstacles ensures that I will keep my patients safe and become an even stronger nurse.
Q. What is the most challenging aspect of your career?
A. The most challenging aspect about working in the ICU is learning to deal with death and dying – especially when it happens suddenly. I work in the Level 1 trauma center, and within my first month of working in my unit, a patient younger than me had gone brain dead within a week of admission. I had gotten close to my patient and the patient's family a week prior, and I did not think anything like this was going to happen. Watching the family say goodbye and providing education to that family was both saddening and relieving. It was gratifying to know that I was helping them through this difficult time, but disheartening to know that there was nothing else I could do for them. At that moment that I realized that this is exactly where I need to be.
Q. Do you have any advice for students who are beginning the job hunt?
A. Get involved with organizations that interest you, and get involved early. If you know early on what areas of study interest you, then you should find organizations that specialize in those areas and attend meetings. This will give you a peek at what it's like working in that area, as well as insight into what the current issues and best practices are.
If you don't know what you want to do, don't be afraid to explore beyond what you do in school. Getting actual experience on a floor as an aid or tech is one of the best ways to discover your passion.
Q. Is there anything a student can do to make him or her stand out in the application process?
A. A large aspect of finding a job is building relationships with your future managers. This means introducing yourself to leaders on the floor you would like to work, and if possible, volunteering or working on that floor. A manager is more likely to pull out your application if they already know that you are ambitious and the right fit. Many of the new graduate positions have hundreds of applicants. The honest truth is that managers do not have the time to search through every single application, so make sure yours stands out.
Another tip I would suggest is to not focus too much on your GPA. Part of building relationships is being able to talk about something else besides your experience in class. Grades are important, but pulling from different experiences and relating them to why you belong in that role will be your biggest advantage.
Q. Is there anything you wish you knew when you were starting out?
A. I wish I knew to have more fun with the process. Yes, applying for jobs is very competitive. Yes, there is the chance that you may not get your dream job right away. However, the truth is that you will end up where you need to be eventually. There is no point in stressing out about the process because there is too much about nursing to discover in two years. The best way to build your resumé is to enjoy the time you have in school and let what you love to do guide you. This also means that you should always be chasing your passion and let that create the pathway towards your future.