"People always ask me: 'Why nursing? Do you think you can't be a doctor?'" says Steven Benavides '13. "It's not that I don't think I can be a doctor. It's that I don't want to be a doctor."
For some time, however, Benavides did want to be a doctor. Then, during his senior year of high school, an older friend who had just returned from active military duty in Iraq enrolled in a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program at a local community college and encouraged Benavides to do the same. Twelve weeks later, Benavides had his CNA license and was working at a nursing home.
CNAs assist individuals with activities of daily living and provide bedside care, including basic nursing procedures, under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse. "It's the lowest end of nursing work you can do, but I really enjoyed it," Benavides says. "It's their home, so you help them feel at home. I had a connection with my residents like I was part of their family."
Benavides soon shifted his career focus to nursing. "I realized that doctors, while what they do is important, have a certain number of patients that they see, and for the most part they know them on paper," he says. "They don't get to work one-on-one with their patients as much as nurses do."
With this new career path in mind, Benavides put aside offers to play college football and searched for schools with nursing programs instead. He also decided to enroll in the U.S. Army's Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Through the ROTC program, Benavides will be commissioned as a second lieutenant following graduation and dedicate eight years to the Army, at least four of which are required to be active duty. In return, the Army pays for his tuition and books and provides him with a stipend.
"My whole future is pretty much planned out for me," Benavides says of his commitment to the Army. "I will be a trauma nurse. I will be deployed." He hopes to pursue pediatric nursing following his Army commitment and will most likely pursue a master's degree in nursing during his years of service.
In the meantime, Benavides is loving life at Salve Regina, a place he admits he attended on a whim. "I'm kind of spoiled that I get to go to school here," he says. "Salve is unique in that you get to live in mansions. Granted, they're converted into dorms, but you're living in a historical piece of time that people are reading about in history books."
Benavides adds that the Department of Nursing is a tight-knit group of faculty, students and staff, a community in and of itself. "All the staff and faculty in the department are there for your support," he says. "Everybody knows your name, and we're always supporting one another. It's really nice that everybody's kind of on the same playing field."