Meet Sara Hurtado, a wife and mother of two (so far) who’s about to take her social work background and launch an exciting new career as a nurse.
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories highlighting a few Concordia’s uncommon May 2021 graduates. Faculty and staff submit candidates for consideration. Stories are posted in the days leading up to commencement. View more uncommon graduates here.
One of the challenges of continuing your education when you have small children at home is that they’ll miss you while you’re off doing school stuff. At least, you hope they’ll miss you. Sometimes, they’re happy when you leave—because that means Grandma and Grandpa get to come over!
So it was for Sara Hurtado, who’s graduating this spring with a nursing degree through the accelerated second degree BSN program at CUW. It was hard to leave her two kids (Amaia, 3, and Francisco, 1½) at home so often, but it helped that they didn’t seem to mind.
“Amaia was always thrilled,” Hurtado said, “because she would get to play with my parents. She would be like, ‘Are you going to school and work today?’”
Heroes of Healthcare
No one can deny that nurses are special people. When people are at their lowest, dealing with some of life’s most difficult challenges, nurses are on the front lines providing care, compassion, and understanding. You might say they’re true unsung heroes of the healthcare world. Hurtado knows this especially well, from working with nurses as a social worker at Froedtert Hospital in Menomonee Falls.
“I’ve always been inspired by nurses, recognizing their skill and their ability communicate and to show physical compassion for people,” Hurtado said. “Their ability to assess, their ability to be really present. That therapeutic rapport along with the ability to really heal, to care for patients, both their physical and mental health. I’ve always been inspired by that, but never really thought that I would be able to do that for myself.”
She loves doing social work, but as the years went by she often thought about transitioning into nursing someday. Then she heard that Froedtert was encouraging staff members to get their nursing degrees and offering support for their schooling.
“I thought, ‘Well, now’s my chance!’” Hurtado said. “I might as well give it a try.”
As eager as she was, it was the unabashed support of her husband, Francisco, that really made it seem possible. He put it very simply: “Well, why not?”
With her confidence boosted and the support of her family behind her, it was full speed ahead. She started the intensive 14-month program in March 2020—just in time for the world to shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdown put a little damper on things, but because the program was already so well oriented for off-site, independent learning, the disruption was minimal. And she immediately found incredible support from her cohort of 16 other students. If anything, the pandemic helped them all draw a little closer.
“I think the best advice the prior class gave us was to form a group chat,” she said. “So whenever new information comes out, everyone sends this mass text. It’s really has been wonderful having that support, and I suppose that in some ways [the pandemic] has made us closer—because at times we didn’t have the ability to see anybody else besides our peers!”
Even so, there were definitely moments when she doubted whether she could really finish this difficult degree while balancing work and family life. For example, as a parent, she said, you tend to get tired when your kids get tired. Putting the kids to bed, reading them bedtime stories, it’s all very relaxing. It also signals the start of her prime study time. So it was often a challenge to psyche herself up to study when what she’d really like to do is put herself to bed.
That’s where the whole family helps. In addition to her parents, Francisco’s family—whom her kids call Abuela, Abuelo, and Tía Mae (Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Mae)—have also provided essential support. It wouldn’t have been possible without all of them, Hurtado said.
She also said that her Concordia experience has helped teach her to turn to a higher power, as well. Right from the start, she noticed how firmly the school’s Christian mission was woven into her education. She noticed the difference, from professors who put Christian messages on the board to classes such as “Christian Caregiving,” which helped her understand how to care for patients at a deeper, more spiritual level.
“It certainly has made an impact in terms of my own spirituality,” she said. “I have found myself reflecting more in prayer, and seeking guidance from God. In those moments of kind of uncertainty, just saying a prayer really has helped me maintain my calm.”
“Sara is very well-spoken and a role model and support for her peers in the program,” said Susan Cole, program coordinator for CUW’s accelerated BSN program. “She has done exceptionally well in the program and reflects the quality and excellence of CUW graduates.”
A New Journey Ahead
All things considered, Hurtado said she can hardly believe it’s really over. On one hand, it was a long haul. On the other, time seemed to just fly by.
“It really has been a whirlwind,” she said. “When I look back at it, I can’t believe how quickly it went—but also how intensive it was. We really had a lot of information thrown at us! It was so neat to immerse yourself in it, and really, I can’t imagine it any other way.”
Now that this part of her journey is over, another one is about to begin. Hurtado has already accepted a part-time nursing position in the behavioral health unit at Froedtert. It’s a perfect fit for her background, and given that mental health has always been her passion. Needless to say, she’s super excited.
She’s looking forward to things returning to “normal”—whatever that means in this new phase of her life. She misses reading just for fun and to not having deadlines and homework and exams always hanging over her head. She misses free evenings to spend with her family.
But it certainly doesn’t mean the challenges are all in her past; they’ll just be taking on new forms. Especially with another big change on the way.
“Actually, I’m pregnant right now!” Hurtado revealed. “I’m about 20 weeks pregnant with our third child, so … [laughs] … it’s an exciting time!”
No doubt—in many, many ways. And take heart, Amaia. Chances are you’re going to be spending quality time with your grandma and grandpa again very soon!
Learn more about pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing—Accelerated Second Degree BSN.
— This story is written by Mike Zimmerman, corporate communications manager for Concordia University Wisconsin. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-4380.
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