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“My Identity is Tied to Nursing”

DNP Student Wants to Lead the Next Generation of Nurses

Written by Molly Smerika on November 3, 2023

Joe Martinez, BSN, MSN, had been working as a nurse for a decade providing direct patient care before he decided to change careers while still using his nursing skills. He worked in the ER, along with med-surg, home health, and telenursing, until he transitioned to a different side of the profession: healthcare technology.

“It was something I never envisioned myself doing when I became a nurse, but as I observed technology quickly changing and evolving around me, especially in the healthcare setting, I became much more curious about technology and how it could be applied to nursing practice in innovative ways,” he says.

He works at a healthcare technology company in New York City. He helps nursing teams implement and incorporate new digital health technologies into their practice. Martinez says it required him, along with other nurses, to uphold clinical safety and quality in a digital health space.


CU Nursing student Joe Martinez, BSN, MSN, and his partner, Perrin Anto

“I observed a crucial gap in healthcare technology where the nursing perspective was simply not being utilized enough, and I wanted to change that,” he says.

Martinez decided to go back to school and he did extensive research to find a nursing program that worked for him. That program was the University of Colorado College of Nursing and its i-LEAD Nursing Leadership and Health Systems BS-DNP program. i-LEAD provides nurses with skills to become leaders and managers in healthcare settings, including learning about informatics, cultural competence, and evidence-based practice.

“I want to lead the next generation of nurses,” he says. “I think the days are gone now where we just say ‘This is how tech works and this is how we treat our patients’. We (as nurses) should really be a part of the conversation, and we should be steering the entire direction of healthcare technology.”

Martinez says the college’s i-LEAD DNP program is helping him use technology to improve clinical practice, improve outcomes for patients, and will help nursing set itself apart from other healthcare professions. He also wants the healthcare industry to respond to data and research that includes a nurse’s perspective.

“Nurses represent the largest workforce in healthcare,” Martinez says. “We have the expertise and the experience, and I know this degree will help me steer the healthcare industry in that direction. I think nurses do really great work, but I do think we kind of have to hold ourselves accountable for the future of healthcare and what that looks like, and I think this degree will help me do that for the profession, my peers, my colleagues, and for our patients.”

Why Become a Nurse?

Martinez pursued a career in nursing after his dad got sick. He found the healthcare system confusing, intimidating, and scary for patients and their families.

“I was frustrated because I wanted to help my dad, but I didn’t know how. So that really encouraged me to get into nursing and take care of patients,” he says. “When I started to take care of patients, I was empathetic because I saw my own family, and I took care of them like they were my mom or dad.”

Martinez doesn’t work directly with patients anymore, but he does help operate clinical practices. He also informs other healthcare professionals about technology being created to improve practice, clinical outcomes, quality, and healthcare safety.

“Being a nurse is probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also a big part of who I am,” Martinez says. “My identity is tied to nursing, and it’s something that’s led me to what I do today.”

Choosing CU and Being a Student Again

Martinez started the i-LEAD DNP program in January 2023 and expects to graduate in December 2025.

“I found that CU had a very robust program compared to a lot of other ones across the country,” Martinez says. “I wanted to find a program that had a really good reputation, and I wanted to make sure the faculty was accessible and that there was a good sense of community.”

After being out of school for nearly a decade, Martinez admits it took him a while to become a student again with classes and studying.

“I was a little rusty and not used to studying, but this program has been so rewarding,” he says. “The culture here is very encouraging. At the end of the day faculty understand that we’re nurses, we’re partners, we have families and we’re individuals. I’ve never had a course that makes me feel like I’m just a number.”

CU Nursing’s i-LEAD DNP program is mostly online, with some classes requiring students to come to the Anschutz Medical Campus. Martinez says he enjoys remote learning and says he’s still getting the same quality of education compared to in-person classes.

“I feel like even though it’s remote, the courses that I take are really hands-on,” he says. “Faculty are always willing to talk one-on-one. And they have a lot of teaching methods with videos, discussions, interactive group projects and individual projects. It’s important to them that we understand the course materials.”

Martinez says learning at CU Nursing has already changed the way he looks at himself and his work.

“I had evidence-based practice and advance stats courses. They were challenging, but they taught me to understand information and clinical studies way more than I did before,” he says. “I think they really taught me a skillset that I can take with me for the rest of my life, even beyond nursing.”

He also has this advice for people thinking of becoming a nurse or DNP – or who are studying to become one.

“Go into the program or profession with the understanding that it’s going to be very life changing in the way you view yourself and healthcare,” he says. “At the same time – it will be a bit of a sacrifice. You may have late nights studying or you might be stressed with your other obligations with work and your family. You’ll have to give a lot, but it’s worth it in the end.”