UST junior nursing major Alejandra Flores was 18 when she became an aunt. Excited, she accompanied her sister to the hospital and held her hand as she delivered Flores’ nephew.
But after the baby was born, a nurse told them he had Group B Strep Meningitis, the leading cause of life-threatening infection in newborn infants according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Her nephew was in a critical condition, and hours later, Flores was able to meet him in the neonatal intensive care unit. “To see him there, tiny tiny little thing, he couldn’t do anything for himself,” Flores remembered. “He didn’t know there’s something wrong.”
Throughout that month, Flores would go to the hospital daily to see her nephew, and she developed strong friendships with the nurses. In time, she made the decision to become a nurse.
“I want to help the little ones,” she remembers thinking. “ I want to help the babies fight the fight that they can’t fight on their own,” Flores said.
Flores transferred into UST’s nursing program in 2016 and plans on graduating in 2020 with a Bachelor’s of Science in nursing. When she graduates, she will take the National Council Licensure Exam, which will make her a registered nurse.
Flores arrives on campus around 8 a.m. every day and does not get home until midnight. When she decided to pursue nursing, she was told by other nurses, “You’re going to want to quit.” But on days she feels like giving up, she reminds herself that in order to help people as a nurse, she needs knowledge.
“I want to be the best I possibly can be to help my patients in the future,” Flores said.
The nursing program has six clinicals that operate at different locations in Houston. Flores is working at Angela House, which houses women recently released from jail, provides basic medical care and assistance and helps them transition back into society.
The clinical program incorporates physical activities, such as zumba and salsa, and teaches self-care activities, such as homemade facemask and body scrubs. Along with nursing, Flores said her main goal at Angela House is to help the women physically and emotionally prepare to be on their own again.
Flores’ first clinical experience was at Ben Taub Hospital. Her most memorable experience there was a STAT–an incoming medical emergency–which turned out to be a gunshot wound. Flores remembers how the medical team came together to meet the crisis and how they prepared the operating room.
Flores said one other incident stands out, one that illustrates the emotional difficulties nurses often face, similar to the sadness her nephew’s nurse must have felt. Flores had a patient on life support who had been declared brain-dead. The patient was an organ donor, and the patient’s family decided to arrange the organ harvest as Flores’ shift ended.
Even though she did not witness the organ harvest, Flores left the hospital that day with mixed emotions.
“This is one of the most sad and beautiful things,” she said. “Obviously you have lost a life, but on the other side of it, this person was willing to give their heart, lungs and kidneys” to help someone else.
It’s that same desire to help that gets Flores out of bed each morning and keeps her going.
“Helping save a life is so rewarding,” she said.