Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the August 2017 issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Jeannette Cruz
More than 10,000 of Grand Canyon University’s 35,000 nursing alumni live in the Valley, and their loyalty to the University – and to each other – keeps them bonded.
“When you see each other on the unit you say, ‘Go Lopes!’ and you take care of each other, as you would with any other nurse, but to another degree,” said Chuck De La Riva, a nurse at Abrazo West Campus in Goodyear who got his degree from GCU in 2015. “You need each other to keep going through the craziness … it’s a small world of GCU.”
Another 2015 GCU graduate, Katie Boggs, sees the same thing among her fellow nurses and even some future alumni at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.
“I get to work with people who went to GCU, nurses that are going back to school to get their master’s and I even see students in their purple scrubs and remember that time in my life when I was in their shoes,” she said. “I always try to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel, and usually you’ll see them smile.”
De La Riva carries a radiant smile in the midst of the Level 1 Trauma Center, where he serves critically injured patients and their families and provides direct care in the 40-bed inpatient care unit. You’d never know that three years ago De La Riva faced one of the toughest periods of his life – he was homeless and struggling to sustain himself.
“I truly do feel like every day I walk through the hospital doors I am blessed to be alive and to be thriving,” he said.
De La Riva believes GCU influenced his faithfulness and prepared him for what he encounters every day in the Trauma Center.
“GCU was a huge factor in me coming to faith, meeting lifelong friends and preparing me to be a high-caliber nurse,” he said. “I love having this opportunity to steward my gift in a way that provides grace to people.”
De La Riva said that when he comes across homeless and substance-abuse patients, he tries to use his attitude and comforting voice to remind them that all is not lost. He can relate.
“I didn’t believe in God when I found GCU, but it resonated with me because I felt peace,” he said. “I wanted more of that, and now I think that was God’s way of opening the door for me.
“A lot of these patients don’t take your advice or go to the programs you recommend, but I want to be the nurse who is there no matter what.”
Soaring grace helps her thrive
Boggs’ success as a nurse stems from her dancing background.
She is able to combine her passion for dance and nursing into her professional life within the Progressive Care Unit. She has found that dance and nursing are surprisingly similar – grounded in grace.
“Dancers are graceful in the way they express themselves, and you also have to be graceful in nursing in the way that you talk and greet people,” Boggs said.
She credited the confident, sociable and poised nurse that she is today to her years dancing, performing and training.
“It’s definitely a challenge to be the positive one, but it’s definitely huge,” she said. “You’re dealing with life, death, sadness, and a lot of times you don’t get gratification for what you do. At the end of the day, it’s not about me.”
It is that physicality that has Boggs’ colleagues calling her “a ray of sunshine.” The alumna was inspired to become a nurse in high school after one of her lifelong dance teachers lost her daughter to brain tumors.
“She had to go through this horrific event with a child, and I remember her telling me that the only reason she got through it was because of the nurses that were taking care of her daughter,” Boggs said. “I want to be that nurse.”
While being a nurse offers exciting opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life and to bond with those families involved, not every moment is filled with excitement. In effect, having a strong sense of community is not something to be left to chance – and sharing the same alma mater is an added bonus.
De La Riva talked about appreciating life and valuing the support of his former GCU peers who are now his colleagues. He said it is just what he needs to lift the emotional overload.
Boggs said she also values having former peers as friends.
“My friends still dance, and now and then I can take a class with them if I want,” she said. “Also, one of the girls who I danced with at GCU works at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. We both went on a mission trip to Africa, and now that we both are nurses we want to go back and provide health care there together.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected]