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Luz Elena Pérez Méndez, Nu’22

“I was volunteering in a small rural clinic in the outskirts of Volcán Tajumulco in Tejutla, Guatemala—the village where my parents are from—and witnessed a live birth for the first time. I cried, of course. This single moment allowed me to realize the beauty of life and the incredible process of bringing another life into this world.”

“It was painful to look at, yet harder to look away. The mother’s face was flushed red and sweaty as the doctor told her to make the final push. From one second to the next, the baby was out, being dressed, and in their mother’s arms. Just like that… just like that another life had come into the world. The reality is that lives can be easily brought into this world but life can also be lost in a blink of an eye. Although this opportunity served to teach me about the support that the nurse provides for the mother, doctor, and newborn, it also made me reflect and ground myself in my life and goals. One of these goals being to become a health care provider.

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do this, but I’ve always aspired to help and heal others. The summer after my sophomore year in high school, I raised funds to purchase medical supplies for this clinic, and also donated my time. This experience provided me with a window into how health care is carried out in an atypical setting. I learned a lot of skills, like working in a lab, but also the importance of patient education. I had the opportunity to work with nurses and in doing so, I recognized that nursing was the career for me.

More specifically, I learned that I wanted to become a labor and delivery nurse. For me, witnessing birth was a life-changing experience not only as an individual, but also as a woman, and I want to be able to play a part in shaping these moments for others as well. After having now completed my first year at Penn, I know that being a student in the School of Nursing is a great honor, but it means a lot more than I thought. As a first-generation, low-income Latinx student, I understand that having come this far also means being a liaison in my community, as well as diversifying the profession and the health care workforce overall. It means being a nurse that patients can relate to directly without a language barrier, a nurse for marginalized communities who would otherwise lack access to care.

I chose nursing, or perhaps nursing chose me. Whichever it was, it was a mutual decision, and I’m grateful to be a student at Penn Nursing.”

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