Internships, relationships lead alumna to Children's Hospital nursing career

Since she was 10 years old, Lucy Camarena ’15 knew she wanted to be in the medical field. Internships and relationships at Dominican helped Lucy realize her dream.

Lucy is a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. She started volunteering at Children’s Hospital as a student in the School of Health and Natural Sciences. This created a path for Lucy to advance to rotations and placements.

“Dominican has a great connection with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, which allowed me to do my pediatric clinical rotation at Children’s and was able to do my preceptorship there as well in the ICU,” Lucy says. “The school-to-job pipeline was really perfect. If it hadn’t been for Dominican and the existing relationship with Children’s, I might not be working here now.”

Growing up in Napa, Lucy originally aspired to become a doctor. Her goal changed when a cousin needed a second open heart surgery.

“I saw the nurse at the bedside constantly, making sure my cousin was OK, connecting with our family. That’s how I decided on nursing instead of being a doctor,” Lucy says. “Nurses were the ones that were really there with the patients.”

Lucy was drawn to Dominican by the reputation of its nursing program and the strong clinical connections in the Bay Area. A straight-A student at Vintage High School, Lucy embraced the challenge of becoming a nurse.

Dominican’s curriculum was broad and engaging. The coursework explored ethics, therapeutic communications, eastern versus western theories of practice, critical thinking, as well as self-care to optimize a nurse’s ability to care for their own patients.

“My professors were great. They made sure we were well-prepared to really take care of patients. They enforced critical thinking, where you aren’t just following orders but are really advocating for your patient and being the middle person between your patient and their care team,” Lucy says. “You really have the power to make sure the patient is heard and that they are safe.”

In one of her classes, Lucy connected with her professor, Dr. Luanne Linnard-Palmer, whom she would also have an opportunity to work closely with when Lucy was co-president of the Nursing Honors Society at Dominican. Linnard-Palmer became a mentor and encouraged a continued commitment to learning even after students entered the professional field.

Lucy minored in Leadership Studies and Psychology while working toward her Bachelors in Science degree. After Dominican, Lucy attended graduate school at the University of San Francisco where she earned her master’s in Clinical Nurse Leadership and is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

Last year, Lucy, while working full-time as a RN, returned to her alma mater to teach one of the clinical rotations for Dominican nursing students at Children’s Hospital Oakland.

“I love to teach, and I like sharing the knowledge and experience I have. I feel like there is so much I can tell them and there isn’t enough time,” Lucy says. “I get really excited when they have their own patients and it clicks for them that what they are learning in the classroom is truly applicable in the clinical setting, it’s really fun.”

Lucy’s teaching experience, in fact, has inspired her to a new longer term goal of teaching pediatric nursing at Dominican. She wants to share her professional knowledge.

“Dominican really instilled the value of good quality care. I want to pass on the theories that resonated for me in the training. That’s why I want to teach,” Lucy explains. “There is a misconception about what nursing is. Unless you’ve been in the hospital and been taken care of by a nurse, you don’t know what that is, there is so much more than just changing you or feeding you. Nurses have to have a lot of broad medical knowledge, a lot more than people think.”


October 25, 2018