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Personal Bout with Coronavirus is Career Catalyst

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Recent TSTC Vocational Nursing graduate Caitlyn Gonzales is now a full-time vocational nurse with South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)
Recent TSTC Vocational Nursing graduate Caitlyn Gonzales is now a full-time vocational nurse with South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)
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HARLINGEN, Texas – Caitlyn Gonzales saw firsthand how important nurses are during the pandemic.

“I was diagnosed with COVID-19 five different times during the pandemic,” she said. “It was a difficult time, but I turned those situations into a positive. I thank the team of nurses who took care of me. They motivated me to become a nurse and help others.”

Gonzales’ gratitude for the care that she herself received came full circle when she recently graduated with a certificate of completion in Vocational Nursing from Texas State Technical College. Now she is a full-time vocational nurse at South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital in Brownsville.

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“I did my clinicals at the hospital, and the work culture is inspiring,” she said. “My job consists of administering medications, getting a patient’s vital signs, and other duties.”

An online search led Gonzales to TSTC.

“I learned that the program was close to home, family-oriented, and I wanted to be a part of that while I studied for a nursing career,” she said. “The hands-on technical skills that I gained prepared me to give patients good health care.”

Heather Sauceda is TSTC’s Vocational Nursing program director.

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“Caitlyn has been trained with the best knowledge and skills, and her patients will be treated with the utmost respect, dignity and care,” she said.

Maria Hernandez is a registered nurse for South Texas Rehabilitation Hospital and an alumna of TSTC’s Nursing program.

“I was Caitlyn’s preceptor during her clinicals,” Hernandez said. “She’s a hard worker and volunteered to learn new things for patient care.”

Gonzales said her immediate goal is to increase her knowledge.

“I look forward to learning from other nurses,” she said. “I also plan to further my education because I want to become a registered nurse.”

In Texas, licensed vocational nurses earn an average annual salary of $50,910, according to onetonline.org, which forecast the number of such positions to grow in the state by 17% from 2020 to 2030.

TSTC offers a Vocational Nursing certificate of completion at its Breckenridge, Harlingen and Sweetwater campuses. An Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing is offered at its Harlingen and Sweetwater campuses.

For more information, visit tstc.edu.

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