The ripples of the COVID 19 pandemic are impacting North Carolinians across the state as a shocking shortage in the healthcare industry was reported earlier this year. According to a report released by Mercer in February 2022, North Carolina could be among the top five states in need of nurses should trends continue. But third year nursing student Fernando Cuevas plans to help fill that shortage.
“I always knew I wanted to help people, and by becoming a pediatric nurse, I can help my patients understand the medical care they are receiving and teach them the importance of helping others,” Cuevas states, when detailing his drive to enter the field of nursing.
The first-generation college student wants to be an integral part of a community within North Carolina, whether at a hospital or a clinic, where he can create close connections with his colleagues and be known to his patients as a member of their community. Establishing these bonds and providing consistent care feeds directly into Cuevas’s genuine desire to help others.
Born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Cuevas is the son of Mexican immigrants. His parents immigrated to the United States so that they could provide their children greater opportunities.
“I am a representative of my family and culture,” says Cuevas. “They are my motivation to reach my goals.”
He understands how hard his parents worked to provide this opportunity for him. Cuevas’ father is the sole provider for the family of five, working long, labor-intensive shifts as a foreman. His mother works tirelessly as “the glue of the family,” running the household and providing a safe and nurturing home.
“My parents have taught me a number of valuable lessons I will never forget, and I wish to pay their efforts forward through my success in receiving an education. My degree isn’t solely my degree; it’s theirs, too,” Cuevas says.
Fernando looks forward to being in a position to give back financially to his parents and provide for his family.
A Call to Nursing
As a child, Cuevas spent a lot of time in hospitals for a variety of health concerns. He recalls being treated with kindness and respect by those caring for him in the hospital and being welcomed with open arms by his local clinic staff during annual check-ups. These early experiences, combined with a deep-rooted desire to help people, led him to pursue a career in nursing. After graduation, he intends to practice pediatric nursing, preferably working with populations with fewer resources and less access to medical care.
“As a nurse, I desire to create a safe space for LGBQT+ individuals and youth,” Cuevas says. “Additionally, the mistreatment of People of Color is an ongoing phenomenon which is hardly addressed in healthcare. If I see something, I will be the one to take action.”
Driven to Achieve
As a high school student, Cuevas participated in UNCG CHANCE, a six-day summer program for Latinx high school juniors and seniors, during which students engage in a range of experiences to prepare for college life and develop leadership skills. Cuevas knew upon completion of this program that he wanted to pursue his education at UNCG.
Cuevas was accepted into UNCG on the UNCG Dean’s Scholarship and has been the recipient of several subsequent scholarships, including the Pamela Wilson Memorial Scholarship and the Brenda Welling Rechtine Scholarship Fund.
He was drawn to the Lloyd International Honors College (LIHC) because of his deep love of learning and the opportunities it presented for deeper, hands-on educational experiences. Cuevas is now an Honors Ambassador for the LIHC and has been accepted into the Disciplinary Honors program as well. As an Ambassador, he speaks with prospective and current students about all aspects of the LIHC, attends events designed for students to create connections and interact with Honors faculty and staff, and participates in planning meetings for prospective events in the LIHC. Cuevas is also a junior representative for the Association of Nursing Students, works at the Student Union, and is an active member of and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Lloyd International Honors College is helping Cuevas attain his goals by creating connections with faculty and fellow students and creating an environment for a higher level of learning. “In one of my recent nursing classes, we used a doll to learn how to talk to a pediatric patient and gently administer a shot. That is the kind of hands-on education I get excited about as a part of the Honors College,” he remarks. Cuevas appreciates the learning opportunity in every experience he encounters.
When the need arises to dig deep and find motivation, Cuevas tells himself, “Just keep on going. Take care of yourself and your loved ones, and just keep on going.”
Story by Emily Faulkner for Manning Words, Inc.
Photography by Sean Norona