On a new journey to become a nurse in U.S.

Vanessa Munguia is attending San Diego College of Continuing Education to improve her English skills and prepare for state exams to become a nurse, which was her occupation in Mexico before moving to the U.S. (Photo: San Diego Community College District)

Mexican-born Vanessa Munguia is eager to re-start her nursing career in the U.S. — but she first has to improve her English skills. To do that, and to get hands-on training with California’s nursing practices — at no cost to her — Munguia has enrolled at San Diego College of Continuing Education.

Born in Tizapán El Alto, a town in Jalisco, Mexico, Munguia was surrounded by her family and a good life. By age 25, she married and moved to Mexico City. Three years later she and her husband moved again to the U.S.

Although Munguia earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Universidad de Guadalajara and worked for three years as a registered nurse (RN) in both Guadalajara and Tizapán, she wanted a fresh start in San Diego.

“Ever since I could remember I enjoyed helping people. I am a passionate, empathetic and patient person,” Munguia said. “When my grandma was very sick, I took care of her and was her nurse for six months.”

Following her grandma’s passing, Munguia found it difficult to find more stability as an RN in Mexico.

“Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I could not work in Mexico City,” she said. “There wasn’t enough personal protective equipment, and facilities are not modern there like they are here in the U.S.”

Sharpening her English

Upon her arrival to San Diego, Munguia found out about the College of Continuing Education through a good friend. She first enrolled in beginning English as a second language (ESL) classes in fall 2022, facing the same challenges that immigrants and adult learners often do.

 “I didn’t feel smart,” she said. “At the time I only knew basic English language like the colors and numbers.”

With the support of her community, she overcame her self-doubt. Now, Munguia is enrolled in advanced ESL classes and the certified nursing assistant (CNA) program, where she participates in clinicals at Castle Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

“For me the College of Continuing Education is a blessing,” she said. “The only thing you need here is the will to succeed. The school provides you with books and supplies, and the teachers are amazing.”

The college’s tuition-free, 16-week CNA program prepares students for the state CNA examination and provides opportunities for clinical rotations at local hospitals and healthcare facilities. Graduates become state-certified as a nurse assistant and can work in rehabilitation and long-term care facilities.

Teacher support

Munguia credits her instructors who have encouraged her during the tougher parts of her path.

“I wanted to give up a lot of times, but I have been so lucky to have great teachers; Doria Ruhl and Diana Vera-Alba,” she said. “They’re patient and compassionate, and helped me improve my English. The language is so difficult.”

She added, “I learned the phrase “don’t give up” here. I remember my first day of class where I thought I couldn’t do this and I wanted to quit but my professor told me, “Don’t quit, keep going, please Vane, never give up. Even if you have obstacles, carry on and never give up.”

Preparing with extra experience

Although Munguia is eligible to validate the nursing degree she earned in Mexico in the U.S., she is adamant about getting experience first. She is currently preparing to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam, the state CNA certification exam and later the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

“I want to make sure to be the best nurse I can be, so before I validate my degree, I want to start with the CNA courses here and get used to how nurses work in the U.S.,” said Munguia, who will also continue her ESL studies and begin an acute care nursing assistant certificate program at the college this summer.

Munguia’s long-term goal is to work in pediatrics as well as in labor and delivery.

About the Author

Allura Garis
Allura Garis is a freelance writer at the San Diego Community College District in California.
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