As a former Division I basketball player, Leslie Lopez is used to her hard work paying off.
That’s why she was so surprised when one of her first quizzes as a nursing student at West Coast University didn’t reflect the effort she had put into it.
“It was probably the lowest quiz score I had in my entire life and I was like ‘Is nursing for me? Is this what I get for the long nights I spent staying up, not getting any sleep?’ And that was where I got nervous,” Lopez said.
Using the focus that helped her become Loyola Marymount’s all-time three-point shooter, Lopez regrouped and got back to basics.
Besides asking her instructor for help, Lopez also joined the PALS (Peer-Assisting Learning Strategy) tutoring program, where students who have just passed a class help others now enrolled in it.
“I used all my resources and I came back and I got an A on the next quiz,” Lopez said with a smile. “You just have to look at yourself in the mirror and beat back all that self-doubt. I think I just needed to push past that and — thankfully — I made it this far. I have one more term left so I’m glad I didn’t quit.”
Did playing basketball in college help prepare you in any way for being a nurse?
I thank basketball because I’ve learned so much from it. One of the keys to being good in sports is just remaining steady and balanced. If you feel yourself getting out of control, you have to be able to pull yourself back. I think my mental toughness from basketball has allowed me to realize that but also provide that therapeutic communication — because in basketball I’m working and communicating with my teammates. But here it’s a teamwork of nursing and making sure that we’re all together on that same page and we are all checking in with one another, ‘Are you OK? Did you get this? Did you get that?’ So, it’s still a teamwork environment and I definitely appreciate that aspect.
What’s the best part about nursing?
Just seeing a patient smile, seeing the family smile, because it can be such a troubling time in the hospital. The patients and the families are probably not too familiar with the medical terminology — they don’t know what these instruments are, they don’t know pretty much a lot of things. As nurses, we’re allowed to provide that therapeutic communication. We’re allowed to tell them ‘Hey, if you need something please let us know.’ That allows them to feel that trust and rapport. Seeing them smile during such a troubling time and even seeing them being discharged is such an amazing feeling because you can see their emotions change from being sad or being afraid and then now they’re just thanking me.
How different is school now compared to before the pandemic?
My heart goes out to the students that weren’t able to be on campus before COVID-19 because it’s definitely a great student environment. You’re meeting new friends — this is social networking in a sense — it’s being able to touch the simulation mannequins, being able to practice. I would be on campus from 5:45 in the morning up until 11 at night studying or doing work and that was, I think, a huge part of my success because it forced me to stay here, be around like-minded people who want to be successful and just continue to keep striving and bettering and wanting more. The faculty, they’re amazing people here, and they’ve allowed me to be successful as well.
It’s tough, I mean, everything’s shut down. So yes, it allows me to be with my family more and be able to be help them with my brother and sister but I definitely miss school. I’m not going to lie, Zoom is great, it’s a nice adjustment but I think being in nursing we need our hands — we need to get in there. We need to try new instruments out and just keep learning from our mistakes so I definitely hope campus will open up soon.
As a former athlete, you probably like repetition and drilling as a learning technique.
It’s muscle memory for me — and me not being able to touch something it’s like, ‘OK, now I need to use my other senses to learn how to memorize things.’ Luckily, West Coast allowed us to take a bag with all the skills that we’ll be tested on, like Foley catheters, blood administration, NG tubes, all those things, so I’ve been able to practice at home.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would it be?
Stop trying to be so perfect. You’re going to make mistakes and this is the time to make them. Being an athlete, I used practice to fix those mistakes and now in this nursing realm I need to be OK with ‘If I didn’t do this correctly, I can do it the next time’ — because it keeps the pressure off of you for a minute. We’re in school to learn, we’re in school to continue our growth as individuals so I think that’s probably the main thing I would tell myself — relax, you’re OK. You’re going to get through this. Trust yourself, trust your gut.
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