Nurse graduate uses lessons learned in school and during pandemic to better serve patients
National Nurses Week is observed each year from May 6 through May 12 to recognize the more than four million nurses in the U.S. It honors their significant contributions to improving the health and well-being of patients, families and communities. This feature illustrates how the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is making a difference and having an impact through our alumni, programs and education.
Irene Cisneros-Fong is exactly where she planned to be.
After working as a pacemaker technician for nearly a decade, today she is a certified cardiac device specialist leading a team of pacemaker technicians in the UC Davis Health Cardiology Clinic.
She got there by becoming a registered nurse through the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis.
“I saw it was an accelerated program and had a master’s degree,” Cisneros-Fong said. “I knew that having both of those at the same time would really put me at an advantage to get me back to where I wanted to be.”
Classroom lessons prove valuable in real-world care
Cisneros-Fong graduated from the entry-level nursing program in December 2019. She landed her first job in the Emergency Department at UC Davis Medical Center. Three weeks later, the pandemic hit.
“Our class literally jumped into the workforce right when the shutdown happened. And COVID-19 really amplified all the health disparities that we talked about at the School of Nursing. That really made me appreciate it even more,” she said.
Those lessons learned at the School of Nursing included coursework on the social determinants of health and a poverty simulation exercise that helped students better understand the barriers many people face to accessing health care. The knowledge was key during COVID-19, and her 10 months in the Emergency Department, and remain valuable every day.
“We can tell patients to start their medication, say, for heart failure. But, if they can’t afford it or get a ride that is a big system issue we need to address,” she explained. “Even though we’re still pretty-new nurses, we can be future leaders and have an impact on those system issues because we understand them.”
Another key takeaway that eased her transition into practice was the interprofessional collaboration she experienced while in graduate school.
“You see how you have to interact with the physicians, case managers, pharmacists, even mental health workers,” she recalled. “Having that already set in place from the school made it a lot less nerve-wracking to work with them and get a care plan for the patient.”
Empowered to represent and lead
She also proudly represents her Latino heritage, which, she believes, enables her to reach her patients on an even more personal level.
Today, Cisneros-Fong feels empowered as a Latina to improve the health literacy of her patients, grow the ranks of Latino nurses in the profession and expand her professional impact.
“Even though I’ve been a nurse just over two years, I’ve already written policies to make the device clinic more efficient,” she said. “Latina cardiac device nurses are not that common. Now, I want to take what I’ve learned and present at national conferences.”
Cisneros-Fong admits that even though she landed the leadership role she set out to achieve, the School of Nursing showed her how much more she could become. And she has a group of forever friends who learned that, as well, alongside her.
“Having my fellow MEPNs meant all the world. We became a family. We pushed each other to go forward and we’re still in touch,” Cisneros-Fong said. “I’ve already seen so many great things that my classmates have done. This is just the beginning for us!”