DSF Scholar Karla Gaytan, a senior at Regis University studying nursing, has spent over 500 hours in hospitals and other clinical settings. Yet, no matter how many patients she helps in a day, her passion for helping people just grows bigger.
“I love interacting with patients all day and being at the bedside with them,” says Karla.
Karla says that the skills required to be a nurse did not come naturally at first, and working with patients wracked her nerves. But one patient in particular showed her that the high stakes of being a healthcare professional come with great rewards.
On one of her rotations in a maternal obstetric unit, Karla was assisting a patient in labor. Karla’s shift ended, but she stayed on to finish the delivery and stay with the new mother. After over twelve hours of labor, they celebrated the successful delivery together.
“After the delivery was over, the mom gave me a hug and thanked me for being with her during the delivery,” shares Karla. “Feeling that appreciation was so special to me. When you have actively been a part of someone’s healthcare, especially at a stressful time, you can look back and say, without a doubt, ‘I have been so helpful today!’”
Karla says she first witnessed how impactful a career as a nurse could be when she was in high school, after her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. After spending days in the hospital with her, Karla knew she wanted to pursue a college education in order to serve others the way she had seen nurses serving her grandmother. Their care and compassion had left a meaningful impact on her life—and her future.
“In high school, I took a class called Future Choices, where I learned more about life after high school and what I needed to do to prepare for my career,” Karla reflects. “I attended career fairs and heard guest speakers share what it is like to study nursing in college. That is when I knew it was the right path for me.”
Through her Future Choices class, Karla discovered the DSF Future Center at George Washington High School. Karla knew that she wanted to go to college to prepare for her career, but as the first in her family to pursue education after high school, she knew she needed extra support.
“I ended up going to the Future Center all the time,” Karla remembers. “Our DSF College Advisor made it a home for students. She pointed us to scholarship resources and guided us through our college applications.”
After qualifying for the DSF Scholarship, Karla set her sights on her next goal, which was to study nursing at Regis University. In deciding to live on campus, Karla knew that the transition from high school to college would be difficult—not only for herself, but also for her family.
“In my transition to college, I experienced real stress for the first time,” says Karla. “The biggest challenge was communicating this stress to my family without shifting the burden to them. Because my parents have never been to college, they did not understand what I was feeling. This was when I started to build a support network for myself on campus, to relate to others in my position.”
Karla’s DSF Campus Contact serves as one point of support in her network. Every semester, Karla meets with her Campus Contact to make sure she is on track to continue receiving her DSF Scholarship. This added support also creates an opportunity to meet other DSF Scholars on campus.
“When I go in for my meetings with my Campus Contact, I see how many other DSF Scholars are on campus with me,” shares Karla. “In fact, many of the people I have connected with through the nursing program are also DSF Scholars.”
As she prepares to graduate in May, Karla has big goals on her horizon, but is also proud of how much she has achieved.
“I am proud of the multiple scholarships I have received, including the DSF Scholarship, and two other leadership scholarships,” says Karla. “With these scholarships, I am able to help my family. All in all, my experience has taught me that no matter how difficult things may seem, resources exist out there to help you. You just have to look for them, and find them.”