November 01, 2018

Bayshore Nurse Catrina Alvarado proudly wears her commencement regalia after becoming the first nurse to complete the challenging RN to BSN program, a collaboration between the HCA Gulf Coast Division and the University of Houston.

Reflecting on her recent experience as the first graduate of HCA and the University of Houston’s new joint RN to BSN program, Catrina Alvarado didn’t mince words. “It was really hard,” she said, before quickly adding, “it was also worth it.”

Content with her family, her associate degree, and her job as an operating room analyst at Bayshore Medical Center, Alvarado wasn’t looking for a new challenge. However, when representatives from the Gulf Coast Division and the University of Houston stopped by Bayshore to recruit for the new tuition-paid RN to BSN program, Alvarado was all ears. She decided she couldn’t miss the opportunity to receive a free education at a tier one university in her own backyard.          

A month later, Alvarado dove into an ambitious course schedule – five courses the first semester, three courses and clinicals the next, and then summer school, on top of working full time and caring for her family, would put her on course to receive her degree in just one year.

At first, Alvarado admitted, it was challenging to juggle work, home, and school life, but as the year progressed, she began to find synergies between her three worlds. “My family was very supportive,” she said. “It felt like they were in school, too, and I started to see applications for what I was learning.”

Alvarado said that the University of Houston’s clinicals offerings set its program above other online programs. Through time spent with the stroke team at West Houston Medical Center, Alvarado said she gained a broader view of nursing. “I could think back to questions I had asked in the past about the way we do certain things, and started answering them myself,” she said.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Alvarado’s favorite memory of that chapter in her life is just how fast it went. “I can’t pretend it wasn’t difficult, but in a blink of an eye, it was over, and I graduated in July,” she said. “It’s fun to look back to where I was a year ago and realize everything I’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time.” Alvarado’s advice for other nurses considering the program is simple: “If you can, do it; it’s an amazing opportunity, and you’ll be proud of yourself if you see it through.”

Eligible nurses interested in participating in the program have a chance to apply for the program this fall. For more information, contact your facility’s director of education.