Dania Puentes' love of pediatrics will never get old.
Puentes first started nursing in 2006, working in the emergency room at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami. After a few years, Puentes said she felt like she should try other specialties to become a more well-rounded nurse. She took a job at another Miami hospital, caring for adults, but quickly realized that pediatrics was her passion.
What makes a great nurse?
"I don't have babies but I do have two nieces and when I care for a child I think, 'How would I want my nieces to be taken care of?' And that is the care I try to give my patients and their families, as if they were my family."
Be an advocate
"Nurses are the front lines for your patient's needs. You have to go out and get it for them if you know it's right."
"You see a lot, especially in pediatrics, but you have to remember why you are there and who you are there for. So you have to keep that strong attitude — even though sometimes things will break you down — but you have to leave that for the aftermath, for your home."
"You have to love it to make it in peds," she said. "And I love it."
Besides caring for the hospital's youngest patients, Puentes also discovered she enjoyed working with the newest nurses, helping ease their transition into the field as a preceptor.
The idea of giving back became more and more appealing, Puentes said, and she decided on becoming a teacher. She earned a masters in education while still working, and 10 years later, Puentes is again walking the halls of Nicklaus Children's Hospital — but now as a nursing instructor with West Coast University-Miami.
"Nursing lets you be that one person who can make a change in somebody's life. So when you go home and you know that you did all you could possibly have done to get the best outcome for that patient — and you succeed — it is the best feeling. You've changed somebody's life," she said. "And that's what nursing's about. You're here to change lives, and you're here to hopefully make lives better and keep families united and provide the best care possible — and that's what West Coast is preparing our students to do."
Puentes said she enjoyed watching the current WCU-Miami cohort under her supervision mature and begin to mesh together their lab experience, critical thinking skills and book learning in a clinical setting.
"West Coast students are ready to go out there, ready to apply what they've learned and I feel that is what makes the difference," she said. "They're not scared. They feel confident. So when they feel confident you know they've been taught the way they should be taught."