Get to know BSN 2020 graduate Francesca Cruz

New alumna preparing to serve as Army nurse in Texas

Photo: Francesca Cruz

Fran Cruz
Class of 2020 Florence Nightingale Award Recipient
BSN 2020

Fran’s advice for nursing students: Go out and make friends. Help each other. It is not possible to do this by yourself, and it is so much better to do this as a team. One thing I have learned in the military is, “Never leave a fallen comrade,” and in nursing school I saw that too. So many people took care of me and made sure I had what I needed to be successful.

Summer 2020 Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate Francesca Alexandra Aiello Cruz, BSN, is ready to take on her next challenge — the U.S. Army Medical Department’s Basic Officer Leader Course.

“I feel confident in graduating. I feel confident in going to my first duty station as an Army nurse,” Cruz said. “And I feel confident that my School has prepared me for any environment, and to overall take better care of our patients.”

By faculty and fellow students alike, Cruz is recognized as a dedicated student who embodies the core values of nursing. That’s why they selected her as their recipient of the UAB School of Nursing’s Florence Nightingale Award, an award that recognizes a student who serves as a beacon of the delivery of high-quality of nursing care.

Just as Florence Nightingale worked to heighten standards of nursing care and improve the living conditions of patients and communities around the world, Cruz was drawn to serve in the military and in the medical field as a way to give back and reflect some of the bravery she saw around her.

“Growing up in New York after 9/11, I saw all of the bravery and acts of courage in my city. I was 13 years old when I saw everything happen, but at that moment I realized I wanted to serve in the Army,” Cruz said. “Then, of course, the question became ‘What do you want to do in the Army?’”

Cruz first approached the idea of becoming a nurse as a teenager. Through volunteer work and seeking out other opportunities in her community, she confirmed that nursing was her dream.

“Since I was 15, I’ve always had that dream. That’s when I confirmed that I wanted to be a nurse in the Army, that I wanted to travel the world and save lives,” Cruz said.

As she looked at nursing schools on the East Coast near family, however, Cruz could not find the right fit. That’s when a Major in the Army told her, “You need to stop wasting your time and just call UAB,” Cruz recalls.

“And the first day I called UAB, I fell in love. From that first day, I felt like UAB School of Nursing invested in me,” she said.

From that first phone call, UAB worked with her for six months to gather the necessary materials to apply to School and be accepted. The School also met all criteria needed for AECP — the U.S. Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program. This program allows active duty soldiers to attend college full-time to complete their BSN.

The School’s support continued throughout her nursing school experience, Cruz said, including through her participation in the Veterans CAN! Initiative, which supports military Veterans and active duty reservists in their pursuit of a Bachelors in Nursing.

“One of my favorite memories was the VCAN program, with Dr. Rhonda McLain – she puts a lot of effort into that program, and it feels like we’re all her soldiers,” Cruz said. “It doesn’t matter where you served in the military – she just has this amazing magnetism that attracts you, and she takes care of you. And throughout all of my semesters here, we’ve always had help from faculty. They make sure their doors are always open, and they always made time for us.”

After graduation, Cruz will prepare for and take the NCLEX exam before heading to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas for the commissioning ceremony and officer leadership training. From there, she hopes to be stationed in El Paso, Texas, with her husband, and to serve at the William Beaumont Medical Center.

“My education, my bachelor’s degree from the School of Nursing will prepare me for any environment. I say that because I really felt that they challenged us in all different areas of nursing, and they created so many different types of simulations and scenarios for us to understand all we could,” Cruz said. “This education is priceless, and what I hope to get out of it is to make a difference in people’s lives and I still hope to continue learning.”

Read 385 times Last modified on August 21, 2020

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