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CU College of Nursing student Arleny Muñoz

Pursuing Her Dreams

UCAN Student Follows in Mother’s Footsteps to Become a Nurse

Written by Molly Smerika on December 12, 2023

Arleny Muñoz donates blood whenever she can – and the first couple of times she donated, she nearly passed out because of the blood.

She thought ‘I could never be a nurse, because I’m scared of blood’. She kept that fear in the back of her mind while getting a bachelor’s degree in biology from Metropolitan State University in Denver.

“I always knew I loved science, anatomy, and physiology,” she says. “But I also love human connection and getting to know, understand, and help others, and I knew I wanted to be around people and be hands-on. I thought I’d work in research, but towards the end of my time at MSU, I realized I didn’t want to work in a lab.”

She overcame her fear of blood by getting a job as a medical assistant in a dermatologist’s office.

“I assisted the surgeon during his Mohs surgeries for skin cancer, and it was the coolest thing ever,” Muñoz says. “I went from this silly fear that held me back to realizing that I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, but I was too scared to do it.”

It led Muñoz to pursue a degree in nursing through the University of Colorado College of Nursing’s Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing program (UCAN).

“CU Nursing is one of the most prestigious schools, so it was a no-brainer for me,” she says. “I was terrified of the challenge of an accelerated program, but I felt in my heart that I could do anything that I set my mind to. Receiving an acceptance letter from one of the most competitive nursing schools was so rewarding. I could tell right away there were people in the program and nursing staff who wanted to help me achieve success, so it felt like home.”

Inspiring Her Community

Muñoz, a DACA recipient, grew up in Westminster with parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. She says she would go to appointments with her family members or neighbors and help translate information from doctors and other healthcare professionals.

“I’ve seen people delay care because they don’t have anyone who can translate information for them or people not being able to afford healthcare,” she says. “I know there’s a lot of people who don’t trust healthcare providers because they don’t look like them or speak like them. So, I want to help my community. I think it’s important that they can trust somebody, and I want to be that bridge and forge a path to affordable healthcare.”

She also hopes her experience will inspire other DACA students to become nurses and pursue their dreams.

“There’s a lot of things I’m not able to do, and things have been harder for me, but it makes me want it that much more,” Muñoz says. “You need people who’ve grown up in these communities who have seen and faced adversity and have different perspectives. I’m always going to fight for what I want to achieve because I want to represent and give back to our communities.”

Preparing to Enter the Nursing Profession

Muñoz says while she is good at managing her time – she found the most challenging part of the UCAN program was studying for three to four tests a week. She scheduled time to study but adds the intensity of the UCAN program is helping her get ready to enter the workforce.

“At CU Nursing, a strong sense of professionalism is emphasized. Punctuality and adaptability are key values instilled in our education. You don’t play around,” Muñoz says. “We get to school, class, and clinicals on time. You also have to be adaptive to changes. There’s nothing that phases me anymore because I’ve cultivated a resilience this year that allows me to navigate changes confidently.”

She also says she’s had rewarding moments in the UCAN program every day. One of her most memorable experiences was talking to patients during her immersion clinical at University Hospital’s emergency department.

“I've had patients say “Mi hija (my daughter), you’re going to be such a great nurse,” she says. “Hearing that is so rewarding and fills me with a sense of purpose and makes everything worth it."

Plans for the Future

Muñoz is not the only nurse in her family. Her mom was a nurse in Mexico but was unable to continue working as a nurse when she came to the U.S.

“I can’t wait to become a nurse,” Muñoz says. “It’s just my way of saying thank you to my parents, especially my mom, for all of their hard work and thanking them for everything they’ve given me. I’m going to carry on this profession for my mother even though she couldn’t.”

She wants to become a nurse practitioner and hopes to work in a hospital’s ICU or emergency department. Muñoz also wants to volunteer to help people in her community.

“I didn’t grow up seeing a lot of nurses that looked like me, who spoke the same language, or who could communicate with my parents,” she says. “And when I did see a nurse like that, it was inspiring. I want to be part of the change that I want to see in the world and help others while I’m at it.”