senior nursing student emily carvajal

“I love talking with people and getting to know patients,” says nursing senior Emily Carvajal.

With a surgeon father and a nurse practitioner mother, it’s not surprising Emily Carvajal set her sights on becoming a nurse at a young age.

“I love talking with people and getting to know patients,” she says.

“As a nurse, you’re helping come up with solutions and teach preventive medicine.”

She fell in love with the intensive care unit (ICU) and critical care settings, so much that she wants to be a pediatric critical care nurse.

“You have so much control to effect change in nursing. The doctors trust the nurses to be the eyes and monitor the patients.”

Licensing in question

It’s uncertain whether Carvajal will become licensed as a nurse at the end of the spring quarter as she had planned.

The final months of nursing school are spent in clinical practice under the supervision of a nurse, called a preceptorship. Each student is required to have 90 hours of direct patient care.

Because of a shortage of personal protective equipment and available nurses to precept, students are having to get those hours in other ways.

Some are working at the hospital and ambulatory site entrances, screening visitors and staff for signs of illness. Some students have started working night shifts at UCI Medical Center, something they don’t typically do.

Coping with financial pressures

Carvajal works as a student advisor and counts herself fortunate to have a job. She knows many others who aren’t so lucky.

It’s also a critical time for senior nurses as they prepare to graduate and study for exams.

“Those can get very expensive,” says Carvajal.

On top of that, there is a litany of expenses — textbooks, food, housing, supplies — that add up to thousands of dollars in addition to tuition.

Missing out on memories

Carvajal says that virtually every student has had to adjust in one way or another. But the senior students are losing something irreplaceable: the opportunity to make memories.

“Spring is supposed to be the chance to experience college one last time,” she says.

She and her cohorts still find regular opportunities to connect, vent, study and do a little yoga together.

“All you can do is think about the positives. Someday we’ll be able to celebrate together.”