Nayelie Benitez Santos, a student in the Master's Entry Program in Nursing, is passionate about improving health care access for communities. Among the many activities she is engaged in, she has been named a 2022-2023 Planetary Health Student Ambassador as part of the University of California’s Global Health Institute. As an ambassador, she will be developing, organizing and promoting activities for planetary health and sustainable development.
In this student spotlight, she shares her commitment to nursing, her research, hopes for the future and a message to her peers.
What drives your passion for nursing?
My family and community drive my passion for nursing. I have seen firsthand the barriers marginalized communities face to access health care due to language barriers, stigma, racism and documentation status, among many other factors. I continue to persist through the barriers I have faced in my higher education journey because I know my efforts are focused on adding diversity to the health care field and being able to advocate for a patient-centered, equitable health care system.
How has your time at the UCSF School of Nursing so far impacted you?
I have had the opportunity to learn and train alongside amazing colleagues, which gives me hope for the future of health care. I have also had tremendous personal growth because of the amazing clinical experiences I have had as part of my nursing education.
You’ve just completed your work as a UC Global Health Student Ambassador. What was that like?
As an ambassador, I have been exposed to the different efforts to improve people's health in the U.S. and globally. I am particularly interested in reproductive and sexual justice, which has led me to collaborate with group members to increase awareness of current issues and inform individuals on how to access resources. Sexual and reproductive health is an issue that impacts everyone, and my goal as an ambassador is to contribute to reducing the stigma of having conversations on how to keep people safe and healthy.
You’re also a fellow with the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. Tell us about your research.
My research focuses on telehealth and accessing health care services during the pandemic within Los Angeles County. The pandemic created fear among patients visiting doctors' offices; telehealth created an avenue for patients to access health care from the comfort of their homes. However, minority communities have barriers to meeting with their provider via telehealth or in-person. My role consists of conducting informative interviews with health care providers on their experiences working with patients during this time and the challenges that both patients and providers have faced. I also assist in analyzing the qualitative and quantitative data produced from this research. It has been such a fantastic learning experience, and I look forward to the policy implications this project will have on improving health care access.
Where do you see yourself in five years in terms of your nursing impact?
I see myself caring for underserved communities as a bedside nurse and nurse practitioner in five years. I also plan to make an impact through upstream interventions and contribute to policy efforts to address the systemic issues that are prohibiting people from being able to get holistic health care services to improve their well-being.
What message would you like to share with your fellow students at the School of Nursing?
Becoming a nurse is such a huge privilege, and I know my classmates know that, which comforts me because I know the health care system is about to gain a large group of compassionate and hard-working nurses.
As we move on to our new endeavors, remember what brought you to UCSF and nursing. Those reasons are powerful and will allow us to overcome any of the challenges we may face as lifelong learners and healthcare providers. I know UCSF School of Nursing students are all part of the solution to reaching health care equity, and I look forward to what the future holds.