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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Grad Q&A with Vocational Nursing graduate Francisco Avalos

May 12, 2022

SJVC Vocational Nursing grad Francisco AvalosAt 25-years old, it has taken Francisco Avalos some time to fall in love with his medical career direction. A short-term Medical Assisting program just out of high school piqued his interest, but it was not until he took it to the next level that he discovered a greater personal and professional depth of commitment and appreciation.


What triggered your move up in your medical career?

I realized I would have more opportunities as a nurse, and I had a lot of encouragement from family and friends to go back to school. When I finally went to my first clinical site (in 2020 as a Vocational Nursing program student at SJVC’s Rancho Mirage campus) I thought, ‘OK, this is where I see myself’. It is so rewarding being part of the process of getting somebody back to health. My first thought was, ‘OK, I can see myself doing this forever.’


Let’s back up a bit. How did you discover the Vocational Nursing (VN) program at SJVC?

Like everybody else, I went online. Other educational opportunities were  less expensive, but a lot more time. I wanted something fast-tracked that didn’t have a lot of unnecessary learning. This was an accelerated program, there was more help with the educational part, and you could reserve a room to study and didn’t have to take everything home. There were also more options for Career Services help (job search preparation).

They were straight-forward about what I needed and it worked with my work schedule.


What did you have to balance in your personal life to make this career dream happen?

I was working full-time in a medical facility. There were times I thought I might have to put a pause on my education. But a few weeks in I left my job to focus on school.

There were times I wanted to give up, but I wasn’t doing this just for me. It is also how I’m going to be able to provide for my daughter, Isabella (7). I had to continue.


What was your VN program experience like?

In the beginning classes were virtual because of Covid. We had a line of new instructors with different styles of teaching. But they were good instructors with different specialties from their own expertise.

But, there was too much distraction for me at home. I remember seeing a lot of Bs and Cs (grades), but when we went back to class and were able to focus on the subjects, it was more Bs and As.


What were your Clinical Rotations like?

They gave us very good locations for our clinical experience; it was excellent! The clinical sites were so willing to let us do everything; obviously our instructor was with us. The facilities were willing to work with us, letting us meet with patients and their families to get to a much more personal level. You got to know, for sure, that this is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life.

A lot of people had encouraged me to get a position in the medical field, but I didn’t expect much to come of it until I started my first day of ‘clinicals’. It wasn’t until I got this hands-on experience that I could really say, ‘I can see myself doing this as a career’.


Any unexpected benefits from clinical rotations at so many different medical facilities?

They (medical facilities) were trying to recruit myself and three other classmates. They wanted to hire us after graduation and licensing. I took that as a great sign. SJVC did a really good job with preparing us for employment opportunities.


What did that on-the-job experience give you that you did not anticipate?

During these clinical experiences I went to specialty sites: cardiology, urology, oncology, and I could see myself there after 2-3 years in a skilled nursing facility. There are opportunities everywhere and I could see jumping from this type of work to cardiology or general health in a hospital.


What are the personal aspects for you of caring for another person?

Sometimes you see patients in a mental health environment who don’t care about their life. Then you see them wanting to live again. You see residents with a feeding tube in their stomachs who a month later are eating on their own. You see sick patients coming to a skilled nursing facility, then see them get better and ready for discharge. You do an assessment, provide medication, therapy.

I’ve seen a lot of nurses tired, burned out. Self-care is very important. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of others. That’s what I learned at SJVC. Just sleep well, exercise, eat good food, enjoy family time; that’s really what the body needs. If you’re burned out, patient care and empathy goes down.


Is there a stand-out moment in your experience in the VN program?

The best moment was when I got the Daisy Award for Outstanding Patient Care. I wasn’t expecting that. Instructors and peers vote on who they think goes above and beyond patient care in their clinical performance. It is recognition and appreciation of my “commitment to patient care, patient skills and compassionate care”.  I didn’t know anything about it until our graduation ceremony when they announced the award and said my name. I was 100% surprised.


Are you where you want to be as a newly licensed vocational nurse (LVN)?

I’ve worked in this skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility since March and want to build up my hands-on skills as a nurse. At first, I was doing a lot of medication administration and catheterizations; just getting to know your patients. These people are the most vulnerable; they have no family members here, so we treat them like family. Some are sick, angry, and hard-headed. Some are calm, cool, and collected because they are going home. We want to make everyone feel welcomed by the staff. It makes it feel purposeful when you’re getting ready to go to work.


Are there advancement opportunities in your position?

Job security is firm, and this will be my primary job. But I’m also looking at providing assistance in home health where I would travel to someone’s house for weekly appointments. There’s a lot of overtime right now because of a shortage of nurses.


Do you worry about burnout with this profession?

You’re ok as long as you’re taking care of yourself and give yourself breaks.

I learned from my mom, Lourdes, that if you’re going to do something, do it all the way. You have to make things happen. She is hardworking, dedicated and will do something full-out, 100%.

Now, if I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. Mark my words. At the same time, it is important to see the brighter things in life. Stop focusing on what you don’t have and be more grateful about what you do have. I’m content where I am right now.

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