Alumni Nursing

Faculty, Staff Make Nursing Student and Her Family Feel Welcome and Supported

Isabella Rodriguez hugging her brother

Isabella Rodriguez was destined to be a nurse.

“Every Halloween,” her mother Teresa Rodriguez reflects, “she would ask to dress up as a nurse, showing her interest in the profession.” Halloween costumes were only the beginning. “When she was around 11 or 12 years old, as the school bus would drop her off at my job after school at Great Neck Pediatrics, instead of doing homework, she was eager to learn how to make appointments, collect co-pays, and perform urinalysis.”

Isabella also saw the direct impact of nurses and patient care when her older sister, who worked in health care, was in a prolonged coma following a car accident.

“I wanted to be a part of the care giving,” said Isabella, 25. Her sister eventually passed away.

The impact of this experience was indelible and led her to explore AHU and embark on her career as a nurse. “Teach me” was her frequent request, and after seeing her sister’s experience, Isabella knew that, more than just wanting to, she needed to take care of other people.

Isabella learned about AdventHealth University from her mother’s nursing colleagues and people she worked with at Target while attending Seminole State College. As she explored degree programs and options, she saw people doing great things and experiencing success. She also appreciates the ways in which the AHU values supported her connections to her own religion and spirituality. She cites the school chaplains and their dedication to student success through frequent check-ins and encouragement, especially as a new student.

Beginning her program in Fall 2021 came with its own challenges brought about by the ongoing COVID pandemic and required protocols. Isabella knows she is a strong visual in-person learner and that doing clinical coursework over Zoom was challenging. Clinicals are typically hands-on experiences, so doing them virtually complicated her initial transition into the program. However, Isabella fondly recalls how actively the faculty communicated with her and her classmates, providing reassurance and making themselves available.

“They all make it clear that they are here for you in any type of way,” says Isabella. Even after graduating, Isabella received calls and texts from instructors as she was preparing to take her NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse. “I only started AHU for the nursing program. My other schools were never like that, where they would text you and try to motivate you. AHU is different in a good way.”

That way of going above and beyond is what helped create the incredible moment that happened during Isabella’s December 2023 nurse pinning ceremony, a tradition among nursing schools. Isabella’s younger brother Brennan Rodriguez, 21, is a U.S. Air Force airman stationed in Japan. Isabella and Brennan have always been close, with Isabella trying to take care of him as if he were her own child when they were younger. Though she hoped he would be able to be at her pinning ceremony, she knew it was highly unlikely.

Brennan says, “Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.” Which is why, with the help of her father, Brennan flew back to Florida to be present. Initially, he had just planned to be in the audience with the family, but a cousin had another idea. Isabella shared that she still isn’t fully sure how everything came together, but her cousin apparently went through her school bag, found a syllabus from one of her courses, and reached out to an instructor to let them know about Brennan flying in from Japan. The instructor connected them to the staff in charge of graduation and together they devised a plan for Brennan to be backstage and come out to surprise Isabella.

All of this also speaks to why Isabella was so impacted by her AHU experience. The staff and faculty helped to create a once-in-a-lifetime moment where Isabella got to realize her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse while cheered on by the entire support system; her family, her instructors; and the entire AHU network who gave her the foundational and spiritual tools to succeed.

We asked Isabella to share a few more thoughts on her time at AHU.

What stood out to you about the ways in which the AHU faculty provided support?

The staff provided a sense of peace, relief, and calm. They knew how hard we were working, and they continually kept us motivated. I appreciated the times when we would pray before an exam together. Instructors were also available to use both before and after exams for review and feedback. If I hadn’t done as well as I had hoped, they’d be there to review with me one-on-one, and to remind me that one bad grade doesn’t dictate my whole career. They often would tell us that (this program) isn’t easy, but it will be worth it. They were right.

What did you find challenging about the program?

Not being able to do clinicals in person was one of the biggest challenges. We could do online “v-sims” (virtual simulations) where we could go through the steps of a procedure, and then start over or repeat it to get better, or if we didn’t fully understand. It still wasn’t the same as being fully in person. Once I was able to meet my classmates and interact with them, everything felt so much better.

What has happened for you since graduation?

I took the NCLEX in February and was completely sure that I had failed. I was able to give myself a mid-test pep talk and finished as much as I could. I had to wait all weekend for my results and felt like I experienced all the stages of grief. When I found out had passed, I was so excited. I got my dream job! I’ll be working in the Pediatric Emergency Room at AdventHealth Orlando.

What advice can you offer to incoming nursing students at AHU?

No matter how hard the program feels, don’t give up. There were times I wanted to quit and was so sure that I couldn’t do it. I went through lots of negative self-talk. I kept going, no matter what. I feel like if I can, then anyone can. If I could tell pre-nursing school me anything, I’d tell her to work for it. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be worth it, so be patient.Without a doubt, this has been the best and most rewarding thing.

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