From 9/11 to 9-1-1: a Nurse’s Journey

national nurses week howard county general hospital

Howard County General Hospital Emergency Department nurse Emilia Alvarez-Negron, RN, (right) in 2010 with her mother, Vilma E. Grevi Rosario, at her nursing pinning ceremony.

Reflections for National Nurses Week 2016

You reach an age in life where you reminisce…where am I? What have I done with my life? Where am I going? Am I on track for what I set out to do? I was 31-years-old when I was reminded in an instant that I had not embarked on my lifelong dreams yet.

It was 9-11. The day the towers came down. I watched it happen. From 1993-2000 I worked in and around the World Trade Center. I knew the city that was underneath the towers and the intricacies of the offices above ground. I wanted to do something. I wanted to help but had no training. That day reminded me that I needed to find a way to end my career as an executive assistant and begin my journey to become a nurse. I wanted to take care of people—not corporate executives—anymore.

Ever since I was a little girl, my mom called me Joan of Arc. I was always taking up other people’s causes and helping people. I have always been empathetic and sympathetic, although coming from the Bronx, working in corporate America and running with the bulls, you wouldn’t believe so.

By the age of 27, I was married and had three children. My focus was on daily life and taking care of their needs and working hard to survive life in New York. I knew that sitting in a classroom was not an option for me, but the online education era was beginning to take hold.

At the age of 34, I began my nursing career journey. I took as many courses as I could online, in the evenings, on the weekends—all while working full-time and being a mom. I had ignited a fire and it just kept getting bigger and bigger with each class I tackled. I had discovered my passion. With my first patient encounter, I knew I had found my calling in life. It took me five years, but at the age of 39 I graduated nursing school at the top of my class with my husband, parents and children by my side and my first grandchild in my arms.

As a nurse, I knew it started with teaching. I discovered in nursing school the best way for me to learn was to teach others. My schoolmates helped me recognize the pure joy in helping others learn and watching them grow. I also knew I wanted to get my master’s in science of nursing and then continue to nurse practitioner. I wanted to go as far as I could. Along the way I discovered just how few Spanish- speaking health care providers there were and the needs that existed.

I moved to Maryland with my family six years ago and worked in the Emergency Departments of several Baltimore-area hospitals before I landed at Howard County General Hospital (HCGH). I chose to work at HCGH because, when I walked in the door, I was welcomed with open arms in such a way that I felt I was home. It was warm, it was welcoming, it was a Johns Hopkins-affiliated community hospital and it had a feel to it that said, “we are here for you.” If you knew me, you’d know I strive for excellence in everything that I do. I wanted to align myself with people who think the same way I do, and I have to say I made the right choice.

As I finish my master’s degree as a nurse practitioner this August with an emphasis on acute care for adolescents and gerontology and a post master’s in nursing education, I have an opportunity to not only teach the public about disease processes—as I have done as a nurse these six great years—but now I can also help to treat them by actually managing their disease processes and prescribing medications when they are acutely ill.

I believe things happen for a reason, and certainly everything that has occurred in my life has not been by accident. I believe God put me on this planet to become a nurse and everything that I have ever experienced has been so that I can be the bilingual Spanish nurse that I became.

When a patient comes into the Emergency Department, they may be experiencing their worst moment possible and you do something that changes their world. You have made an impact. They probably won’t remember you but when you go home at night, you know you made a difference. That is nursing.

I had a career as an executive assistant and, although I was good at what I did, I can’t say that I loved my job. I can say that I absolutely love what I do now as a nurse and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Emilia Alvarez-Negron, RN
HCGH Emergency Department


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