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Student Spotlight

October 2014 Stellar Students - Christian Villanueva

Christian VillanuevaMeet Christian Villanueva, an undergraduate minority nursing student at Marquette University.  Christian is a second-generation Mexican-American.  For Christian, nursing has been a blessing in disguise.  His decision to pursue a career in nursing stemmed from a desire to work in healthcare and help others in their time of need.  As a bilingual Hispanic, growing up in a primarily Spanish speaking neighborhood in Chicago, Christian clearly understands the challenges underserved Spanish-speaking communities face. As a result, he felt compelled to apply his bilingual skills in the field of nursing to help address the needs faced by underserved communities.

Christian’s perspective on nursing echoes the need to increase diversity in the nursing workforce. “I believe nursing diversity is a necessity because of the changing demographics in the United States. Nursing is a profession that serves others and we need to become more diverse in order to be able to address the changing demographics and varied cultures of those we care for. By increasing diversity in nursing, we will be able to make a positive impact in healthcare, decrease language barriers, and increase cultural sensitivity.”  

Furthermore, Christian admires the “holistic approach” nurses have in the care of patients. He believes holistic healthcare is an essential component to serve diverse patients and communities.  As a student, he also stresses the importance of increasing the number of diverse faculty in nursing programs, because “by diversifying academia, nursing students will be exposed to diverse faculty who mirror our population and can provide students additional opportunities to develop cultural competency skills and sensitivity to cultural values.”

Christian provides sound advice to other students pursing degrees. “Make the most of your clinical experiences, learn as much as you can, and network with nursing professionals to make early connections for future employment and mentorship.  I have found the more nurses I speak with, the more perspectives I gain about the profession. Networking is a way to learn more about your areas of interest and what excites you in the field of nursing.”
Christian is a bright and extroverted individual but admits he has had some challenges in his educational journey.  “At first, one of my greatest challenges was adjusting to college life, because I didn’t know anyone with prior college experience to help me understand what to expect.  I did relatively well in high school without having to study, and thought I could apply the same strategies in college.  However the rigorous workload of nursing school quickly changed my opinion. I began to discover that I needed to fully apply myself in order to succeed and become the best nurse I can be.” Christian reached out to advisors, faculty, and diversity programs that provided support mechanisms to help him succeed in college.  He has maintained an above average GPA and has successfully made it to his senior year in nursing.

 In addition to taking advantage of resources on campus to help with his transition, Christian shares other strategies that have augmented his success. “My ability to stay calm under pressure has helped me tremendously. I do not let the rigor of nursing deter me from success. I have been easily able to connect the material from the different classes to understand nursing on a complex level, which has helped me achieve the grades I’ve always known I was capable of attaining.”  

Christian’s outgoing personality has helped him make connections with many professors and professionals who have been extremely helpful in my growth as a nurse. To date, he has had a very successful college career, having been inducted into both the Spanish (Sigma Delta Pi) and nursing (Sigma Theta Tau International) honors societies. Christian was also recognized by Marquette University’s Division of Student Affairs as ‘Most Outstanding Sophomore of the Year,’ and received two other awards for Celebration and Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion, and Spiritual Development and Justice Education.

Christian’s other interest includes research.  As a result, he applied to the McNair Scholars Program, which provides research opportunities to undergraduate students.  “I was accepted and became a McNair Scholar. As a result I have had the opportunity to assist nursing faculty with research studies and present at several nursing conferences.”

 Christian reflects, “Even though I have been a very successful student, college has been a time of major development and growth, both as a student and as person.  I have been involved in social justice issues, particularly those affecting the Latino community. My upbringing in an immigrant family has allowed me to witness the numerous barriers that undocumented communities face in this country, such as the imminent fear of deportations and family separations. Relating back to nurses obligation to holistically care for patients, my experience as an activist has made me more socially aware and challenged me to always be an advocate for patients and communities. Exposure to the struggles that a community experiences also helps me better understand, not only the health aspect, but also the social issues that have major implications on this population’s health. The Latino population is vulnerable and with the increasing demographics, we as a profession need to be more prepared to serve individuals and the population as a whole, to try to alleviate any barriers such as language, or access to care, to make healthcare as equitable as possible.”

A beautiful vision for the future of healthcare from this young emerging nurse leader! Christian, best wishes for all success in your nursing career!

Submitted by WCN Board of Directors Member:

Juanita Terrie Garcia, MEd, RN
Grant Specialist Senior - Pre Award
Patient-Centered Research Sponsored Programs Office
Aurora Research Institute™  
Aurora Sinai Medical Center

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