Jennie Elizabeth Zavaleta became an agency nurse after graduating in 2020. However, she has faced major obstacles throughout her journey to becoming a registered nurse.
Jennie initially was inspired to pursue nursing while working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), a position she started in at the age of 18 to pay for her college tuition. During that time, her grandfather passed away, so she spent time in nursing homes and witnessed the powerful effect nurses have on patients and their lives.
“I find it to this day super rewarding what we are able to do as nurses,” Jennie says. “It is just that fulfillment that nothing can really buy.”
Jennie made the switch to pursuing nursing in college as she continued to work as a CNA and eventually as a patient care technician in Chicago to get hands-on experience in the field.
“I pretty much committed my life to nursing,” Jennie says. “It’s my passion. It sounds so beautiful, but I obviously had a lot of struggles. It didn’t just come easy. I had to really work hard to become where I am at right now.”
Jennie began to work toward her degree at 18, but she did not become a registered nurse until 29. Because she was undocumented as she was working to pay for college, it took longer for her to reach her goals than she had hoped.
Then, in 2020, Jennie faced the difficulties of a divorce in addition to the pandemic.
“The pandemic hit a terrible situation with the person I had been with for a very long time, and he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” Jennie says. “Things ended up really bad and, you know, I just ended up either way pushing through, graduating with my Bachelor’s of Nursing and my master’s, and nursing became more like my marriage commitment. I feel like what fulfills me and has helped me in life is helping others, and that is why I decided to do agency nursing.”
As an agency nurse, Jennie works in many different departments depending on the needs of hospitals. As she began to work in pediatrics, she realized there is a lot of help needed with mental health. Given her experiences in 2020 with her divorce and her own mental health struggles in response to the situation, she felt drawn to nursing in the mental health sector.
“When someone is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the person that you once knew becomes someone they aren’t when they are not treated,” Jennie says. “My ex was going through a manic phase. That is when I decided to [pursue becoming a] psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.”
Because of her own struggles, Jennie believes she can use her own experiences to help others.
“I find a connection to everything, so I feel like pediatrics is where core starts,” Jennie says. “Childhood is what makes us as a person. Then as we grow, we become adults, but we have to face all these obstacles. It’s hard. As a nurse, I have the opportunity [to help] maybe one or two people get through what they’re going through. That is what motivates me in life.”
In addition to her role as an agency nurse, Jennie does aesthetic injections as well. As Jennie learned more about aesthetic nursing, she noticed that most people underestimate the skill it requires.
“It’s not just Botox,” Jennie says. “You can do restoration repair, plasma and more skilled nursing than many people have this idea of. I started seeing a connection with if you help people with how they feel, you are also helping them mentally.”
While most people believe that people receive aesthetic injections primarily for vanity, Jennie has discovered most people go because of insecurities. Jennie finds a connection between mental health and aesthetic injections.
“It’s just that little thing that bothers them that makes them feel better and can change their life,” Jennie says. “It’s not just beauty. There’s more to it than that.”
Jennie finds nursing rewarding, recalling one recent patient who was coping with pain from back surgery. The patient thanked Jennie for taking the time to speak with her and hold her hand amid the busy hospital setting. Moments like this inspire Jennie to keep pushing forward with her career.
“Being busy and learning has helped me with my mental health through everything,” Jennie says. “Nursing is my passion. Keeping busy and learning is something I enjoy. It’s what makes me feel free.”
As Jennie moves forward, she maintains the mindset that every individual offers something new and different from which she can learn. She takes life one day at a time and believes that life will guide her to the place she is meant to be. For now, she looks forward to continuing to learn.
“If she is able to do it, I can do it,” Jennie says. “That’s what ‘[she can be both]’ means to me. It may take some time, but you can get there. We all have the power to get there.”
You can follow Jennie on Instagram @peruvian_nurse.