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Graduate School of Nursing student reflects on starting nursing school during pandemic

Oscar de la Rosa helped with initial UMass Memorial DCU field hospital set up

By Kylee Denesha

UMass Medical School Communications

May 10, 2021

Graduate School of Nursing student Oscar de la Rosa, who is enrolled in the Graduate Entry Pathway to Doctor in Nursing Practice program on the family nurse practitioner track, decided to pursue advanced practice nursing after working in public health and health care.

In 2016, he earned a degree in public health at Worcester State University, while working as an emergency medical technician. He most recently served as a public health prevention specialist for the Worcester Division of Public Health, managing grants to prevent opioid abuse and supporting the work of the Central Massachusetts RegionaAl Public Health Alliance. His duties quickly changed during the summer of 2020, transitioning to a pandemic-focused role.

“I got to be part of the work to set up the Worcester field hospital at the DCU Center,” de la Rosa said. His public health background gave him a useful perspective. “It really made me think of all the many different moving parts that have to come into play in order to respond to the pandemic. Now, as a nursing student, I’ve been able to provide COVID vaccines to people. It's been an incredible thing to witness public health and the health care system in action.”

The blend of clinical rotations and online coursework has been a learning experience for de la Rosa, who started nursing school during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the situation presented its challenges, he is grateful for the opportunity to participate in various clinical settings. One location holds special value.

“Right after graduating from college, I started working as a community health worker at Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in Worcester, which is where I have been placed for my summer clinicals,” de la Rosa said. “I was interacting a lot with the doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners. It’s the place that I felt was foundational to my career.”

When he was 5, de la Rosa and his family moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic, where his mother was a pediatrician. After moving to Northbridge, his mother began a new medical career, first as a certified nursing assistant and now a registered nurse.

“My mom played a huge role in what influenced me to become a nurse,” de la Rosa said. “I’m inspired by the ways she has taken care of our family and the way she loves everyone in her life. Growing up, I was always curious about science and health.”

He recently learned that he was appointed co-president of the Graduate School of Nursing Organization, in which he will communicate and collaborate with his peers and the UMass Medical School administration. He said he is eager to be a voice for the student body. He said the role he will serve is reflective of the work he wants to do in the future.

“I see myself working as a family nurse practitioner, serving medically underserved populations,” de la Rosa said. “I hope to return to a local community health setting, like Edward Kennedy Community Health, where I can provide care for people from all walks of life and advocate for my patients.”

The Student Spotlight series features students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Graduate School of Nursing and School of Medicine. For more information about UMass Medical School and how to apply, visit the Prospective Students page.

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