uci nursing student and fellowship recipient brenda aguilar at nursing school graduation

Brenda Aguilar at her nursing school graduation.

After six years as an emergency room nurse four of them at UCI Medical Center, Brenda Aguilar saw an opportunity to do more for the patients before they ever arrived needing critical care.

“Every illness we see in the ER is almost always a preventable thing. Every day, I see people and I think, ‘We could have prevented this if this patient were educated on medications and diet,’ ” she says.

“I love my nursing job, but I want to help people before they get here and not have to give them bad news.”

So, she applied for and was accepted into the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program to become a nurse practitioner.

Scholarship and fellowship opportunity

When her three years of study are complete, she’ll continue on to a fellowship at the UCI Health Family Health Center – Santa Ana.

She has committed to working there for at least two years after graduation.

The Family Nurse Practitioner Fellowship Program prepares outstanding and experienced nurses at the medical center to become NPs with a focus on the underserved.

For Aguilar, the commitment was easy. Working in a culturally diverse clinic is exactly what she has always wanted to do.

The fellowship includes a scholarship offered through UCI School of Nursing and UCI Health for the DNP degree program.

Understanding where others are coming from

Aguilar’s desire to help others also stems from what she witnessed as a child.

She remembers going to the doctor with her mother. “No one spoke Spanish,” she recalls.

Her mother wondered why no one seemed to be culturally competent.

“If you understand where people are coming from, they’re more receptive to listening to you.”

A long journey to nursing

It has been Aguilar’s dream to be a nurse since graduating from high school. She just wasn’t sure how to become one.

She eventually started as a medical assistant, then a nurse’s assistant. Eventually, she went to nursing school to become a registered nurse.

“It’s been a long journey, but it’s well worth it. I’m getting this opportunity to do what I love and help people,” she says. “I’m just so grateful.”