CU College of Nursing student and alumni, Krystal Hidalgo, a UCHealth Nurse Educator providing pediatric skills training

University of Colorado College of Nursing Takes Worry, Fear Out of Earning Degrees and Reaching Goals

Graduate nurse attended college’s different pathways to overcome tough start in life

Written by Deborah Sherman on November 22, 2022

Krystal Hidalgo was born during a short and cold winter in El Paso, Texas on the Mexican border to a struggling single mother of two. A gambler might have bet against her success, but would have lost. Today, after attending two unique educational pathways at the University of Colorado College of Nursing, Hidalgo is a Registered Nurse, has earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, and is working on an advanced Master of Science degree.

“I feel very lucky. The college’s programs let you grab every opportunity you can. The classes and instructors help you get to where you want to go a lot faster,” Krystal Hidalgo, BSN, RN says. “Now I’m a nurse educator and that’s because of the foundation I got at CU, I cannot say it enough, I am constantly raving about it.”

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Hidalgo, a UCHealth Nurse Educator providing pediatric skills training

Two programs paved her way to the top: CU Nursing’s Integrated Nursing Pathway and the online i-LEAD program (Innovation in Leadership and Administration in Nursing and Health Care Systems).

Making the Move

When Krystal was in elementary school, her mom moved the family to Denver to pursue job opportunities. The transition was hard. While 83% of people in El Paso spoke Spanish, in Denver, it was almost all English. Krystal immersed herself in a new language and way of life. She earned her GED at 18 and had her firstborn at 20.

“I was a little bit desperate as a single mother, like, I needed to do something very quickly, how am I going to provide for my child?” Hidalgo wondered.

Her sister-in-law, a Medical Assistant (MA), told her she could earn an MA Certificate in nine months. So, Hidalgo entered the medical field and never looked back. She worked at Children’s Hospital and was so impressed with the nurses, she decided to earn a registered nurse degree. Luckily for her, CU Nursing had just started an Integrated Nursing Pathway program at the Community College of Aurora (CCA) and two other community colleges. The program allowed her to attend CCA and earn an associate degree in two years and then complete her nursing studies at CU Nursing, earning a Bachelor of Science in the next two years. Hidalgo was in the second cohort to go through the pathway.

“It was so wonderful because I was still able to work about 30 to 40 hours a week at Children’s through this program. It allowed me as a single mother with bills to pay and get a really good foundation in nursing through this program, all at the same time. So, it was very manageable for me,” Hidalgo says.

More to Learn

Hidalgo had a second child when she graduated with her BSN and took a new job on the nursing Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s. Later, she was credentialed to a Level IV Charge Nurse for Denver Health where she worked through the pandemic. Currently, she’s a UCHealth Nurse Educator. While she loves the job, she still wants to learn more and grow. That’s why she recently returned to CU Nursing to attend the i-LEAD program and earn a Master of Science degree.

Did You Know?

CU Nursing offers a non-degree enrollment program. It lets you explore the University of Colorado College of Nursing without being formally admitted into the college. The CU College of Nursing Non-Degree Enrollment Option offers BSN-prepared RNs the opportunity to enroll in a graduate-level course without being formally admitted to the college. Learn more about the non-degree enrollment program.

“I knew I wanted to stick with CU because of the experience I had there with my undergrad program. I was adamant that CU was going to be my grad school. With the i-LEAD program, I can learn online. It’s the best option for me with working a job, and where I want to go in the future,” she says.

With the extra degree, Hidalgo plans to pursue other leadership roles in hospital administration. She routinely encourages other MAs and RNs to also keep learning and earn additional degrees, even though it seems hard and scary. In fact, one of her Medical Assistant peers recently was accepted into the pathway program through CCA!

“I think it intimidates people. They think, ‘I don’t want to go through that all over again.’ But it's not the same experience. I tell them ‘You are now an experienced nurse in the workforce, and it's not going to be the same experience in your grad school. You're going to be more comfortable; you're going to be more confident in your decision-making and what you're writing about, and research is going to be a lot easier.’ As nurses, we’re already lifelong learners and are always evolving with best practices. So, why not get another degree to better yourself?” Hidalgo says.

Hidalgo was the first to go to college in her family. Now, she’s expecting to graduate with her Master of Science degree in the fall of 2024. “The program is flexible and I am in no rush to finish. To me, education is about the journey not just getting it done,” Hidalgo says.

Topics: Alumni, Students