Student Spotlight: Rosario Valerio

- Author: Maggie Morris - Categories:

After experiencing first-hand with her parents the health inequities faced by the immigrant population, Rosario Valerio was determined to work toward solutions to enhance the health of people in similar situations. As a wife and mother of 3 young children, she turned to USC’s MSN-FNP online program on a part-time basis to gain the knowledge and skills to succeed as an FNP while maintaining the flexibility she needed.

Rosario has 15 years of experience providing patient care in a critical care setting as a Registered Nurse and is a member of the Philippine Nurses Association of Southern California. As her graduation date approaches, she feels prepared to sit for the national certification exam.

Below, Rosario discusses her experience in the MSN-FNP program, how she balances her responsibilities as a student, nurse, and mother, and advice for those considering pursuing their MSN-FNP online at USC. 

Tell us about yourself.

I am originally from the Philippines and migrated to the United States in 2007. I started as a new grad RN in CCU at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles and have been working there for 15 years, providing care for patients in a critical care setting. I am also an active member of the Philippine Nurses Association of Southern California, which aims to promote professional excellence through partnered research ventures with different health organizations and contribute to significant outcomes for health care and society by participating in community outreach and volunteerism.

Beyond the professional realm, I am a dedicated wife to my CRNA husband, Reggie, and together, we are raising 3 kids—Ruvielle (12 years old), Reagan (10 years old), & Reginald (5 years old).

In my pursuit of holistic well-being, I recently discovered a passion for Lagree Megaformer, turning it into a fulfilling hobby.

What was your motivation for pursuing your MSN-FNP degree?

My parents happened to be visiting us in the US when the pandemic lockdown started. The plan was to stay here for a few weeks; however, all the return flights were canceled, and there was no way for them to go back home at the height of COVID-19. Since both of my parents were on maintenance medications for hypertension and diabetes, we had difficulty with their refills. Another challenge was the shortage of primary care providers and the inability to perform certain tests due to their limited insurance. This opened my eyes to the health inequities faced by the immigrant population in accessing US healthcare.

Because of this motivation, I pursued to become a nurse practitioner to play a role in raising awareness about the health challenges faced by migrant populations and to work towards solutions to enhance their overall health.

This involves promoting cultural competence, facilitating access to healthcare services, and advocating for equitable and inclusive care policies. Ultimately, pursuing an MSN-FNP degree is driven by my aspiration to make a meaningful impact on patient outcomes and healthcare systems for everyone.

Why did you choose USC?

I was drawn to USC because of the program’s strengths and how well it aligns with my career aspirations. Family nurse practice has more opportunities and flexibility in selecting patient population focus. USC also provided options to attend a full-time or part-time and a comprehensive curriculum to deliver innovative and well-structured clinical and academic formation.

Now that I am almost graduating, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work has molded me into a well-rounded nurse practitioner student ready to sit for the national certification examination.

What was the deciding factor in pursuing an online degree?

I decided to pursue online learning because it provided me with a rigorous learning program, with the convenience of a more adaptable schedule, and accommodating work and personal commitments. This flexibility, coupled with the opportunity to maintain professional and personal obligations, became a pivotal factor for me in opting for an online nurse practitioner degree.

How did you manage your time, balancing coursework and clinicals with professional and personal obligations?

Self-discipline, time management, and support from family and friends were instrumental in successfully fulfilling the program’s academic and clinical requirements. It involved meticulous planning and a detailed day-to-day schedule to allocate specific times for coursework, clinical hours, and personal commitments. And as an experienced RN, I lived by the saying that prioritization is key. I focused on the high-impact tasks first. There were moments when I was overwhelmed and faced with multiple deadlines, combined with my responsibilities as a mom. Regular self-assessment allowed me to adapt my schedule as needed, ensuring I met academic requirements, excelled in clinical experiences, and still had time for personal well-being and motherhood.

How would you describe your experience pursuing your MSN-FNP at USC?

Initially, I found it very challenging. It was almost 20 years since I last went to school, and it was my first experience as an online student. It was a unique journey marked by a blend of excitement and adjustment. Navigating virtual classrooms and digital platforms felt overwhelmingly unfamiliar. However, I was fortunate that one of my first professors was Dr. Zappas, who recognized the unique challenges of online learning and adjusted her teaching methods to accommodate a virtual environment. She provided recordings of the lessons, allowing me to watch and rewatch the classes until I could master the concepts in my own time and pace. The excellent faculty connectivity encouraged engagement for students’ questions and clarifications and provided a supportive environment, ensuring that students were able to navigate the online platform effectively. I found the discussion boards very helpful as well because they fostered student participation and collaboration which allowed me to have a better understanding of the materials.

Tell us about your experience with On-campus Intensives.

My first OCI was done online because it was during the pandemic lockdown. Though online, I found it meaningful through the supportive faculty and mentors. I was able to put the whole puzzle in one frame. The biggest challenge was performing a physical assessment without an actual patient. Fortunately, I had a supportive husband who acted as my standardized patient.

My OCI 2 was totally different because it was done on campus. It was my first time seeing the USC campus, and it was awe-inspiring. There was a palpable energy that I belonged to this institution, which symbolized academic excellence and rich history. It was also memorable because it was my first time seeing our faculty and classmates in person. It was a mix of excitement and reverence because we established instant peer connection and cohort cohesiveness. It was very productive because we were able to build on previously learned material as a team while sharing our diverse viewpoints, experiences, and backgrounds. Simulation-based learning also allows a safe environment for performing different procedures and developing clinical skills that are very useful in practice. 

Tell us about a time in which you could put your knowledge gained in the classroom to work immediately at your job.

One clinical pearl I will always treasure from Professor Kirkland is that, “History tells a story.” In the clinical setting, various symptoms may be shared by different conditions. For a novice like me, it may be challenging to come up with a diagnosis and formulate treatment plans within a limited allotted time. But drawing from my classroom knowledge on obtaining a thorough patient history, to conduct a detailed interview, probing for relevant information about their medical history, lifestyle, and potential triggers. And by merely listening to the patient’s narrative and even expressions, this comprehensive approach will allow me to identify crucial details that may lead to a more accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan, showcasing the practical application of my classroom-learned skills in a real healthcare setting.

How have you grown personally or professionally since completing your coursework and degree?

USC bolstered my knowledge, strengthened my nursing skill set, and allowed me to be a reliable provider who not only appreciates minute important assessment details but can also step back and see a whole, global picture in safe patient care management. Professionally, I’ve refined my clinical skills through hands-on experiences, adapting to the dynamic healthcare landscape. Additionally, I have grown not only as an ordinary provider but I am empowered to be a leader in my field

This program taught me the importance of professional advocacy and active participation in changing health policies. It has enabled me to transcend limits. On a personal level, the journey has strengthened my resilience, empathy, and ability to navigate complex healthcare scenarios, fostering a deeper connection with patients and a commitment to lifelong learning. My 3-year journey at USC is genuinely a massive transformation! Before, I was always uncertain of my abilities. I was in so much doubt about what I could do. Now, I am sure of my plans after graduation, and I am not afraid to take risks. 

What has been your biggest personal or professional success since completing your degree? 

My most tremendous success was my profound impact on my patients’ lives. On my last clinical rotation, I received numerous compliments from my patients on how I could tailor their care based on their individualized needs, and they even showed interest in keeping me as their primary care provider. Some patients wanted to schedule their visits on the days that I was working in the office. While I knew this was premature, it gave me validation that I was doing something right. It immediately brought me back to my first day of clinical rotation, where there was a vast mixture of anxiety and role confusion. Now, I have undergone a whole personal and professional transformation, and this is my biggest triumph

This transformation is also translated into my clinical practice. Before, I heavily relied on my preceptor’s clinical diagnosis and treatment for my patients. Now, I can independently synthesize assessment findings and formulate diagnosis and treatment plans for all my patients. I still value the input and recommendations of my preceptor, but this advanced into a collaborative and collegial conversation. Truly, a transformation that I could not imagine happening so fast. But it did! 

What advice do you have for prospective students making the decision to pursue their MSN-FNP?

Before entering the program, it’s essential to know your own passion. We should have a genuine interest in primary care and patient advocacy as these are core aspects of the FNP role. Once in the program, take one day at a time. There is so much to accomplish but there is a perfect time for everything. PRIORITIZE! What’s most important is to learn from every experience you encounter and cherish them bit by bit. Don’t forget that your classmates are not your competitors or your mentors. They are your allies, and together, you ALL have ONE GOAL to make each of you successful!

Learn more about the Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program.

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