After earning her undergraduate degree in biology at UCLA, Nicole Martinez found herself at a crossroads.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of healthcare somehow,” the new Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing remembers. “That really opened the door to a lot of volunteer opportunities.”
While exploring her next move, Martinez volunteered at federally qualified health centers, free clinics throughout Los Angeles and various after school programs. She took note of the nurse practitioners, how they led, how they cared for people.
A volunteer opportunity at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, a camp for children who have cancer or have a sibling with cancer, allowed her to see all the possibilities of a nursing career.
“I saw the role of the nurse in all these different realms. Having fun at camp, but still being a part of health,” Martinez remembers.
“It really opened my eyes and I realized this is an incredible opportunity to deliver health in different realms, whether it’s education, in a fun setting or in the clinic.”
Even as a biology major, she remembers the nurses in the research studies she was involved in. “I thought, ‘Wow, nurses are everywhere you go.’ I was in an environment where you get to see how dynamic the role really can be.”
Drawn to those in need
Looking back, Martinez realizes she has always been drawn to those in need. As a volunteer at the free clinics, afterschool programs and camp, and then with refugees who had just arrived in the US.
“It was almost as though I was working abroad. I saw various medical issues and pathology that I had never seen before,” she says, recalling one young girl with chronic knee and patella dislocations, caused by carrying heavy jugs of water on her head for miles each day.
Her doctoral dissertation examined patient data from a hospital in El Centro because, she says, “Muchof the data we have is from large medical institutions in metropolitan areas.”
While her research showed that El Centro’s data was aligned with that of a larger institution, Martinez says that the question always needs to be asked so those in rural and otherwise underserved communities don’t fall through the cracks.
Returning to the UC system
Martinez is excited about returning to the UC system — especially UCI.
“At this point in my life, UCI was just a blessing and a gem. Everything about it aligns with who I am,” she says, noting that she is also drawn to large academic institutions. “It really came full circle for me.”
One of Martinez’s biggest and most pressing goals as DNP program director is to increase the diversity of both the faculty and student population.
“That only improves our program, having different thinkers and different experiences. Having that dialogue only improves each of us and enriches the program.”
The Cathedral City native says that having the opportunity to go to LA for her education opened doors personally and professionally. She wants students to have those same transformative experiences.
“I hope all of our DNP students take advantage of the opportunity their education can provide them,” she says. “It really has fulfilled me to have access and to have opportunities for so many different things. In hindsight, I was so lucky that I took advantage of that.”
About Nicole Martinez, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, ENP-C, PHN
Nicole Martinez, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, ENP-C, PHN, Director of the DNP Program at the UCI Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing, is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP-BC) and an Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP-C).
Martinez received her PhD in Nursing from the University of San Diego, her Master’s in Nursing at Western University of Health Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Biology at UCLA. She is licensed in the state of California and has over 13 years of experience as an advanced practice provider in emergency health. She has also worked in the primary care setting particularly at a refugee clinic and retail healthcare setting in California. Martinez has had previous academic appointments as the clinical faculty director of the FNP program at Georgetown University and as a clinical associate professor at the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science at the University of San Diego.
Martinez is an active member of the American Academy of Emergency Nurse Practitioners (AAENP), serving as the western regional director and co-chair of the membership committee. She is an active member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and California Association of Nurse Practitioners (CANP) and is the dermatology column editor for the Advanced Emergency Nursing Journal. She is also the Co-Chair for the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty Emergency Special Interest Group. Martinez is a published author, textbook and journal reviewer, and contributor to Lippincott’s online procedural manual. She is also an item writer for AANPCB and has served on the task force for the FNP Practice Analysis.
Martinez is an Achievement Award for College Scientist, Dean’s Graduate Merit and Research, Comite Mexico Alumni, and Delores Jones Scholar. Special interests include promoting high-quality, educational experiences for all health providers. Her overall research focus is on emergency care, provider clinical decision making, competencies and standards, and NP leadership.