By Frank Couch
University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice Nurse Anesthesia Pathway student April Garlejo, BSN, RN, was awarded one of two Dreamer Scholarships given to student registered nurse anesthetists of color each year from the Bigger Dreams, Better Tomorrows Foundation Inc., in 2020.
Garlejo received the news of the scholarship award during a class lecture and immediately shared the news with family.
“I was shocked then I turned off my Zoom camera momentarily, got very excited, and texted my mom to let her know,” she said.
The Bigger Dreams, Better Tomorrows Foundation Inc. is a non-profit dedicated to increasing diversity and leadership within the nurse anesthesia profession via added resources, support, mentoring and scholarship.
Applicants write an essay on how to address diversity and disparity in the anesthesia profession and in the health care system. In her essay, Garlejo described the social, racial and economic challenges she faced as a first-generation Filipina American. Even with these challenges, Garlejo said she thrived in a diverse environment that recognized and celebrates individuals from different backgrounds.
“… I reflected on the importance of diversifying the work force as a key to providing high quality anesthesia care,” she said.
To help continue to diversify the health care workforce, she plans to mentor first generation ICU nurses offering assistance in interview preparation, personal essay editing and fostering connections with other nurse anesthesia students.
Garlejo’s personal surgical experiences inspired her to become a nurse anesthetist.
“I met two nurse anesthetists who alleviated my pre-surgery anxiety, making me feel at ease during a time of vulnerability,” Garlejo recalled from her bilateral ACL reconstruction. The nurse anesthetists shared their anesthesia plan with her and demonstrated their advanced pharmacological knowledge that would help alleviate any post-operative complications. Their confidence and reassuring manner inspired Garlejo to peruse nurse anesthesia.
“I hope to care for others the same way they did for me when I was the patient,” Garlejo said.
Even though her excitement briefly interrupted lecture, Garlejo said she only had a brief celebration before returning to lecture and turning on her Zoom camera.
“I resumed listening to lecture and taking notes because this scholarship propelled me to continue doing well in my classes,” she said.