On August 11, the Arizona Nurse Practitioner Council (AZNPC) announced University of Arizona College of Nursing Student Erica Castillo, RN, as the winner of the 2019 NP Student Scholarship. The award is given annually to a first-time NP student in any specialty who is a member of the Arizona Nurses Association (AZNA).
With 17 applicants for the scholarship this year, it was a competitive field. Castillo was selected based on her outstanding essay and is receiving a $2000 award. She recently completed the Master of Nursing in Clinical Leadership (RN-MSN) program at Arizona Nursing, where she is now starting her journey as a PMNHP DNP student.
Applications were anonymously judged on the following criteria: commitment to nursing, leadership abilities, ability to advance the profession, and the ability to succeed as an NP based on experience. Castillo demonstrated these attributes by playing an active leadership role in the Latino/Hispanic community, engagement in oncology and critical care nursing and research, and a commitment to provide culturally sensitive care to an underserved population of Latinos with behavioral health issues.
"As a Latina, I know first-hand the impact family and culture have on patient outcomes, and as a provider, I hope to break down these barriers so patients are more willing to acknowledge their condition and accept help.” ~ Erica Castillo, RN
Why did you pursue a career in Nursing?
Initially, my plan was to expand my career in clinical research. I was accepted into the Bilingual Nursing Fellowship Program at Phoenix college, which is where I found my new passion, nursing. Nursing has been one of the hardest yet most rewarding things I have done. I am so honored to be a nurse.
Why did you choose Arizona Nursing for your masters and doctoral programs?
I received my undergrad from Arizona State University and when I moved to Tucson, I decided to pursue my Master’s through the University of Arizona. The UA offers a great program for working professionals. I had the best experience, with such great professors that I decided to continue and pursue a Doctorate through the Arizona Nursing.
Why did you choose to pursue a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner degree?
I come from a family of police officers. Growing up and to date I heard about the various situations they encounter, most of which are encounters with people who suffer from a form of mental illness. Mental illness has always intrigued me and I have always wanted to find a way to help. Throughout my Masters, I focused my research in behavioral health and found a disparity due to lack of providers. I am pursuing a PMHNP to close this gap and provide mental health services to a population who is in such need.
Can you tell us about your oncology and critical care nursing and research?
My career started in clinical research, 18 years ago. I have participated in Phase I – IV trials of human research in various indications. My first nursing job was on a Telemetry/Oncology unit (Tower 6) at St. Joseph’s hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., where I was surrounded by some amazing nurses who taught me the foundation of nursing. I then moved into Critical Care, where I was on the Medical ICU at St. Joe’s. I absolutely loved caring for patients during such a critical and scary time for them. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by nurses who supported each other, and who I could rely on to ensure my patients had the best care possible. I then moved to Tucson and was able to merge my two passions, nursing and research, as a Senior Research Nurse for the UA Cancer Center.
Describe your active leadership role in the Latino/Hispanic community.
I have held various leadership roles on boards such as the National Association of Hispanic Nurses and the Latino Cancer Coalition, and I am a Hispanic Leadership Institute Alumni. These various organizations helped me better understand the disparities our community faces. Additionally, they have given me a platform to provide education, healthcare services and to be an advocate to promote culturally sensitive care. Currently, I am a board member for MHC Healthcare, which serves a population of approximately 40% Hispanics.
Can you tell us about any meaningful faculty mentorships you’ve had here at UA CON?
Yes. All my professors were outstanding, however Professor Sherry Daniels who I had the privilege to have as a professor for a couple of my Master’s courses. She went over and beyond to ensure my success.
What is the importance of providing culturally sensitive care to an underserved population of Latinos with behavioral health issues?
Unfortunately, there is a known stigma in the Latino community with regards to mental illness and therefore Latinos are reluctant to seek help. I believe the most important quality in providing care for Latinos with behavioral health issues is to include our culture and family. As a Latina, I know first-hand the impact family and culture have on patient outcomes, and as a provider, I hope to break down these barriers so patients are more willing to acknowledge their condition and accept help.
What are your plans for the future?
My vision for the future is to provide behavioral health services to those individuals who do not meet inpatient qualifications but cannot get in to see a specialist within a timely manner. My goal is to create a free-standing mental health urgent care facility to meet this niche population need.