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The International Intern Reflecting on Her Roots

Karla Fausto, Nu ’16 first came to Penn from Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico to study chemical engineering, with a concentration in pharmaceutics and biotechnology

“I think I originally chose engineering because when you’re 17 and live in Mexico and someone says you should be an engineer, you believe them,” Fausto explains. “I also knew I wanted to work in healthcare, but thought I should do that through the pharmaceutical industry because I thought I wasn’t good with people.”

But, her trajectory changed dramatically when she felt compelled to change her program of study in the middle of her junior year.

“I simply walked into the nursing advising office and registered to take all nursing classes that semester,” she says. “I was definitely looking for a more human element than I would have found as a chemical engineer.”

Fausto found that human element in nursing. “I’ve realized I love dealing with people at their bedsides – hearing their stories and feeling like I can do something immediate and tangible to help them achieve wellness,” she says. Though she is still unsure of exactly what she wants to do post-graduation, Fausto says her current internship at Puentes de Salud, a nurse-led clinic in Philadelphia, has sparked a strong interest in primary care. There she is helping provide primary care to a medically underserved population – primarily Latin American immigrants and their children.

“I have been able to focus my experience and reflect upon it by working with Dean Villarruel (Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor and Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing),” Fausto says. “She really wants to work on the relationship between Penn Nursing and Puentes, and I am thrilled to be part of that process. I think we both reflect upon our Mexican roots and want to help better the lives of other Latino/as who haven’t had the same opportunities we have. We’ve been thinking of ways I can turn this experience into research that will improve the ways we think about and care for this medically underserved population.”

In addition to her positive internship experience, Fausto says she likes that the nursing program is very cohesive, with each new course building upon previous lessons. “In nursing, I feel that everyone genuinely wants to see their peers succeed. It feels as though the class is moving upward together, as opposed to everyone trying to find his or her own path up the mountain,” she adds. Fausto says one of her best experiences at the School of Nursing actually stemmed from one of her worst. “That first semester, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to achieve and, one day in Nursing Lab, I found myself unable to perform one of the skills,” she explains. “It was something simple, but my hands were shaking from nerves and I just got more and more frustrated.” Fausto remembers that after class, Beth Quigley, MSN, RN, CRNP, Advanced Senior Lecturer, pulled her aside and asked what was wrong. “In that conversation, she made me understand that she believed in me,” says Fausto. “This was the first time I ever felt an instructor truly cared about my well-being and success. Even though I wasn’t a patient, I felt that I was being cared for and that I mattered. I can only hope that I can keep developing my ‘nursing touch’ and someday be able to instill that same sense of calm in a patient.”