Monica Arreola was sure that when she became a nurse, she would work at Children's Hospital Orange County.
She had already worked there for nine years prior to being an RN, so why change a good thing?
"I started working at CHOC when I was 19," Arreola said. "It's funny because in October was my nine-year anniversary and that's when I got the offer (to be a nursing resident), so that was really cool."
Arreola's first job at CHOC was as a secretary. Eventually she was cross-trained as a certified nurse assistant, although her name badge still read "secretary," which lead to some funny glances from patient's parents.
"They'd say 'Are you qualified to do this?' and I'd be like, 'I'm fine, I'm good,'" she said, laughing.
Arreola's mother had worked at CHOC for 25 years as a medical assistant and had encouraged her daughter to become a nurse. Once Arreola started working at CHOC, she quickly decided being a nurse was the last thing she wanted to do.
"I was like 'Ew, I don't want to do this. This is really hard,'" she said. "You need a lot of heart. I don't have heart or compassion."
But that all changed one day.
While working in the neuroscience unit, she developed a strong relationship with one of CHOC's long-term patients. The child couldn't walk or talk but Arreloa became very attached to her.
"When she passed I realized, 'Wow, I want to do this. I actually do want to do this," Arreloa said. "She kind of helped me realize I do want to do nursing."
Soon after, Arreloa began looking into going back to school. She explored several area colleges and community colleges but said the wait for classes was too long. Plus, one of her bosses at CHOC told her that the hospital was no longer hiring RNs with associate degrees.
"The fact that I could start right away was definitely a reason I wanted to come (to WCU)," she said. "Then one of my co-workers was an instructor at WCU. She would tell me all the great things about the school and how I should really try. She said, 'You might love it like I love teaching there.'"
Now that she's graduated from WCU, Arreloa plans to pursue becoming a nurse practitioner after she gets settled into her position. She's not sure what area of medicine she will specialize in, but there's no doubt where Arreloa wants to work as a nurse.
"The children at CHOC are just so amazing and the parents are so good," she said "It really makes me think about how strong somebody can really be even though they're put in a really bad position. It just reminds you everyday what good there is in the world."