(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Licensed Vocational Nursing student Carolina Padron Contreras has always dreamed of becoming a nurse — especially in the maternity labor and delivery unit in a hospital.
“I just feel like it’s such a rewarding career,” she said. “I really enjoy helping others, and the big thing is I really want to make a difference in the community.”
Contreras’ calling is so apparent that even TSTC Nursing instructor Heather Sauceda noticed it.
“Nursing is woven into her soul,” Sauceda said of her student’s passion for service.
Contreras had the opportunity to apply that passion when she completed her first clinical rotation in a local labor and delivery unit.
“It was an awesome experience,” she said. “I felt well prepared to utilize all the nursing interventions I was taught throughout the year to collaborate with the nurses and, of course, ensure the patient was safe.”
The rapport Contreras built with the nurses on staff — along with her willingness to learn and help — granted her a rare chance, as a student, to assist with the delivery of a baby. Contreras ensured that the new mother had comfort and support throughout her labor, staying by her side from start to finish. Then, as the father was unable to attend, the patient asked Contreras to be the one to cut the umbilical cord.
“I had no words,” Contreras said. “I just feel like labor in general is the most beautiful thing.”
Cutting the cord was a first for a TSTC student on rotation, Sauceda said, adding that Contreras impressed the staff so much that one of the nurses recommended the hospital hire her for an open position.
“I was so proud of the kind of students we produce at TSTC,” Sauceda said.
After Contreras earns her 16-month LVN certificate of completion, she plans to enter the workforce to gain more nursing experience. While she works, she aims to apply to TSTC’s 12-month transition program for LVNs, which classifies students as registered nurses after they pass the National Council Licensure Examination.
The support of the TSTC instructors is a big reason she wants to return to TSTC to further her education, Contreras says.
“They’ve been very encouraging and always pushing us,” she said. “Everyone has been so helpful and available when we need them.”
Licensed vocational nurses can make an average salary of $47,760 in Texas, with a projected job growth of 11% by 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Registered nurses can earn an average of $75,320 per year in Texas, with a projected job growth of 17% by 2028, according to onetonline.org.
Enrollment for the fall semester at TSTC is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.