Graduate Claudia Iglesias-Buck: How a world of adventures led nursing student to NAU 

Claudia Iglesias-Buck and two other nurses in scrubs standing outside a hospital.

On her first day of college, 18-year-old Claudia Iglesias-Buck knew what she wanted to do with her life. 

On graduation day, the 22-year-old had no idea what she wanted to do next. 

It wasn’t the journey she anticipated on that long-ago first day of school, but for Iglesias-Buck, the circuitous path that has led to her life today—she’s graduating with a second bachelor’s degree in nursing from the College of Health and Human Services and preparing to work in emergency medicine at a level one trauma center—was exactly what she needed. 

Iglesias-Buck with a Senegalese woman while she was in the Peace Corps.
Iglesias-Buck with a Senegalese woman while in the Peace Corps.

“I spent the decade after college living by the beach in San Diego; backpacking through Southeast Asia, Central and South America and Spain; completing a certification in birthwork as a doula and another 200-hour certification as a vinyasa yoga teacher; working in behavioral therapy and case management; bartending; and volunteering with the Peace Corps in Senegal,” Iglesias-Buck said. “Each of these experiences showed me that I wanted a career that gave back to my community, provided me a flexible schedule and solid work-life balance and integrated my love of working with people in a fast-paced environment.” 

Perfect, in other words, for nursing. 

Preparing for nursing before she knew she wanted to be a nurse 

Iglesias-Buck’s first bachelor’s degree is in psychology; she planned to be a therapist. As she took classes, worked, socialized and got to know herself, she learned in those four years that she didn’t want to be a therapist, nor was she ready to commit to any one career.  

Claudia Iglesias-Buck and her husband, Travis, on their wedding day.
Claudia Iglesias-Buck and her husband, Travis, on their wedding day.

Her choices after that led to adventures, meeting people from all different backgrounds and developing new skills based on her interests. She fell in love and got married. She learned to juggle different tasks and work with all sorts of people. 

In the decade between finishing college and deciding to go back to college, one thing Iglesias-Buck routinely went back to was bartending. She found herself regularly “wrangling” rowdy customers, talking to people through their difficult times, adapting to various situations and staying on her feet even when she was tired. Buck said when she got into nursing, she discovered many parallels between the skills of a bartender and a nurse. 

“The service industry taught me how to juggle multiple tasks while simultaneously developing genuine connections with new people, how to work quickly and thoroughly under pressure, how to prioritize tasks and how to show up to work with a positive attitude regardless of what else may be happening in my life,” Iglesias-Buck said.  

Discovering NAU’s accelerated BSN program 

When Iglesias-Buck decided she wanted to be a nurse, she started taking prerequisites and looking around at nursing schools near her California home. Then a friend in NAU’s speech language pathology master’s program expressed how much she loved her experience as a student. Her interest piqued, Iglesias-Buck looked into NAU and found the accelerated BSN , a 12-month program designed for students who already have bachelor’s degrees in other fields. NAU was able to expand those programs in 2023 and offer full scholarships after receiving a $6.4 million grant from the State of Arizona. 

Iglesias-Buck was waitlisted for the Flagstaff cohort, but an advisor reached out later to ask if she was interested in joining the first North Valley cohort. Working in Phoenix, though not her first choice, allowed for unparalleled opportunities to work with a variety of practitioners and different medical locations. She even did her clinical capstone at the Mayo Clinic, one of the top 100 hospitals in the world, which was a highlight of her nursing school career. 

Iglesias-Buck and another hiker on top of a snow-covered mountain.
Iglesias-Buck with a friend on top of a snow-covered mountain in Peru.

It was a great opportunity, but it wasn’t an easy one. When Iglesias-Buck wasn’t in class or at a healthcare facility or working, she was studying dense, complicated subjects like pathophysiological processes and nursing interventions or memorizing hundreds of medications with their drug class, side effects and contraindications. She had exams every week or two. On top of all that, she worked bartending shifts to make ends meet. 

She did it all, not only going to class but actively participating in lengthy lectures. Beverly Rader, an assistant clinical professor in the accelerated BSN program, said Iglegias-Buck demonstrated a passion for learning; she frequently asked questions and shared examples from her clinical work. In a field where no two classes or two patients are the same, Iglesias-Buck was just able to adapt. She also has a smile that helps her connect with patients. 

 “What I appreciated most about Claudia was her flexibility with last-minute changes in the program without complaining,” she said. “Her ability to accept negative feedback also demonstrated a high level of emotional intelligence, and I am confident that she will be an excellent and caring registered nurse.” Claudia Iglesias-Buck headshot in Sedona

Now that she’s graduating, Iglesias-Buck can look back and see that the difficulty of this work is what helped her to excel. It was hard every day, but she did it all, earning good grades, making the Dean’s List and feeling ready to be a nurse. 

“Though the pace of this program is grueling, it is also very empowering,” Iglesias-Buck said. “Accelerated BSN programs are not for every student, but they are a great option for students like me who are returning to school seeking a new career after having spent a few years in the workforce.” 

After commencement, Iglesias-Buck will work in the emergency department at Flagstaff Medical Center, where she will put all her life experiences—and new degree—to use. 

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Heidi Toth | NAU Communications
(928) 523-8737 |

NAU Communications