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CU Nursing alumna Valeria Martinez

Being an Advocate for Latino Nurses

CU Nursing Alumna Takes Leadership Role to Promote Health Equity

Written by Molly Smerika on March 15, 2024

Valeria Martinez Tenreiro, RN, PMHNP, knows the American Dream is possible. She’s done it – and has been living out her dream of becoming an advanced practice nurse.

She was a doctor in her native Argentina before coming to the United States in 2000. She earned her BS in Nursing degree through the University of Colorado College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus Accelerated (UCAN) program in December 2016. She came back to CU Nursing and earned a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner degree in December 2023.

“I want to tell anyone who’s had to start again, being an immigrant – or being too old or too young – to never give up,” she says. “Hold on to your dreams and fulfill them, because if there’s one thing that’s true about the US, is that you can still make your dreams come true. The American dream is possible. You CAN reach your goals.”

Martinez Tenreiro works at UCHealth as a relief charge, discharge, and floor nurse. She’s worked mostly in oncology specialties and is a certified bilingual nurse. She has also been a member of the Denver Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) since 2018 and recently finished her first year as the chapter’s president.

“Nursing is an amazing career and it’s full of opportunities,” she says. “You have so many routes you can take. You can make this career into anything you want.”

CU Nursing sat down with Martinez Tenreiro to talk about her career and how she’s become a leader in Colorado’s Latino community.

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What made you decide to pursue a nursing degree?

I was a doctor in Argentina before I came to the US. Once my kids started to grow up, I realized I needed to get back to what I have always loved most, my one true passion: healthcare. Going into nursing is the best decision I have ever made.

What do you love about being a nurse?

Nursing is all about being with people and caring for people, and it’s the one thing I truly love to do. What keeps me going is helping people overcome their health difficulties and knowing that what I do every day helps others. Seeing nursing students and new nurses develop into outstanding nurses fills my cup every day.

What made you decide to earn your degrees from CU Nursing?

CU Nursing has a strong history of excellence in education, so it was a great fit for me. I chose the UCAN program because I needed to earn my degree quickly and get back into the workforce since I had responsibilities. Once I became a CU Nursing aluma, I understood the college and what to expect, and I wanted to earn a master’s degree at a school that provided a good foundation for my advanced degree.

Why did you choose to earn a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner degree?

Psych has always fascinated me. I love talking to people. I also enjoy figuring out how people make the decisions they make and how they’re affected by their mental health struggles. Our mental health impacts our lives daily and I wanted to help people struggling with mental health conditions. I also knew there was a huge void in psychiatric mental health care for people who speak Spanish, and I wanted to choose a career path that was meaningful and where I could make a difference.

You joined the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) shortly after graduating from CU Nursing. Why did you want to get involved with the organization?

When I went back to school, I wanted to find a professional organization where I could fit in and help guide me in my nursing career. As an immigrant, sometimes it can be hard to fit in in certain places. I found that being part of a professional organization is very valuable, it led to leadership roles, and it allowed me to advocate for the health of our Latino population.

Why is it important to be an advocate for our Latino population?

NAHN wants to give a voice to our Latino nurses, and we want to increase the awareness of issues affecting our Latino community or our Latino nurses. What things are a struggle for them? Those are things that we talk about within NAHN.

Our Latino population is unfortunately suffering because of health inequities. The Latino population has high rates of uninsured or underinsured status, so people can’t get the primary care they need. That means they don’t have access to early detection of conditions like diabetes, or hypertension. These diseases can progress and cause complications that sometimes require hospitalization, which can be very expensive.

We also want to make sure we have enough diverse nurses in the workforce. We want to support nursing students when they’re in school to ensure we attain more representation in the workforce. Research shows that people have better outcomes and feel more connected when they see healthcare providers who look like them.

You recently wrapped up your first year as president of NAHN’s Denver chapter. What are some things you do in that role, and why do you enjoy it?

When you assume the presidency, you guide the chapter and help the organization establish its goals. NAHN is a national organization with more than 40 chapters. So in my role, I want to make sure we’re following the mission of advocating health equity and advancing the health of our Latino community as well as improving nurses’ professional development.

Can nursing students join or get involved?

Nursing students can become members – in fact, you don’t even have to be a nurse or a student nurse to join. You have to be committed to our mission and vision in supporting the needs of our Latino community.

What are the benefits of joining a professional organization like NAHN?

I think that all nursing students and alumni should consider joining a nursing organization, whether it is a specialty association or one associated with your ethnicity or culture. It will not just look great on a resume for a student or a current nurse. Being active within the organization, going to meetings, and getting involved in a professional organization’s activities can be very rewarding. Benefits of being a part of a professional organization include networking, professional development, scholarship opportunities, mentorship, and the opportunity to participate in community-based projects.

What advice do you have for people who are considering having a second career in nursing?

I want to tell anyone who’s had to start again, to never give up. The American Dream is possible. You CAN reach your goals.

What would you tell a student nurse, or someone thinking of becoming a nurse, about the profession?

I encourage nursing students to keep going – I know things get hard – and lots of people want to quit. But keep going, because nursing is a truly rewarding career full of possibilities.