Sheila Mercado is a Walden Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student who lives and works in Puerto Rico. Despite the challenges of two natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, she has persisted in completing her doctoral program while also emerging as a leader in the nursing field and becoming a higher ed instructor. She shares her inspiring story of resilience and career success.
At this point in my life, if I could describe my superpower with one word, it would be Resilience. This word defines me since, despite a series of natural events in Puerto Rico, I successfully achieved my professional and academic goals. My capacity to bounce back from misfortunes fills me with pride. This is the reason why I share my story.
In February 2017, I started in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program full of doubts and skepticism. The reasons for these feelings were based on several factors such as 1) studying in a language that is secondary to me, 2) Walden was my first online mode experience, and 3) the monetary investment in my education. Despite all this, I decided to pursue the DNP program. As a nurse specialist who is passionate about providing quality care to patients, I knew my education would expand my ability to impact social change and lead others in my field.
From the beginning, I enjoyed my classes and my knowledge grew. However, my world changed on September 20, 2017, when the island of Puerto Rico was mercilessly hit by a Category 5 hurricane named María. This is when my superpower began to emerge. The state of the island and the long months of recovery are known worldwide. Despite this, I continued in the course in which I was registered. I admit that these were difficult and painful weeks of uncertainty and my ability to concentrate was affected. Despite the pressures I faced during a major natural disaster, I used the following techniques to build resilience:
- I applied my knowledge of nursing practice to solve problems and help others in my local community.
- I stayed focused and establish priorities on a daily basis.
- I actively tried to stay positive and calm during turbulent, unpredictable events while also allowing myself quiet moments to mourn and express sadness.
- I always believed that I was capable of resilience. This belief pushed me to keep going in my professional, personal, and academic life, even when times seemed unbearable.
As the irony of life goes, Hurricane María brought me the dream job for which I had been preparing for all of my academic and professional life. Due to my prior reputation as a graduate student and nursing professional, the prestigious Universidad de Puerto Rico contacted me and I was invited to interview for an Instructor position. I was hired to teach a medical-surgical course to nursing students at my dream university! The achievement of this goal ultimately boosted my confidence. At the same time, pursuing my DNP allowed me to continue growing as a professional and broadening my horizons. After completion of my doctorate degree, I will be considered for a full-time professor position at Universidad de Puerto Rico.
Since the beginning of my DNP, many doors have opened up for me. At present, I am also an active member of the Epsilon Lambda Chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau, secretary of the Forensic Nursing section of the College of Professionals of Puerto Rico, and member of the Curriculum Committee in the nursing department of Universidad de Puerto Rico- Mayagüez Campus (UPRM). My experience at Walden opened my eyes to actively doing more for my community and profession.
As my doctoral journey comes to an end, I am within hours of achieving one of my greatest life goals: the completion of a doctorate degree. But life continues to test my resilient spirit. How? At the beginning of 2020, Puerto Rico experienced a series of earthquakes that mostly affected the northwest region of the country. So far, the ground has not stopped shaking, although at a lower intensity. In March, a lockdown and a curfew began in Puerto Rico to face the global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these adverse events, I continue to use positivity, focus, and passion to build resilience. I was able to write and defend my doctoral project successfully and, as of this day, it has been published in ProQuest.
Being able to share my story with others fills me with satisfaction since I have been able to overcome many challenges during my academic journey. Everyone who has completed an academic degree knows firsthand how difficult the educational process is; however, I can argue that if you put passion, dedication, and endurance into all you do, you will savor the fruit of success in unimaginable ways. Walden helped me learn how to be resilient and use all available resources to achieve my goals, inspire others to grow, and promote positive social change despite adversity. I am currently doing a job that I enjoy, continuing to learn about the profession that I love, and contributing positively to the society I serve.
Written by Doctor of Nursing Practice Student, Sheila Mercado-Morales