Graduate Fernando Mendivil: Nursing student hopes to impact the lives of patients, starting with his sick mother

When Fernando Mendivil tore his meniscus playing football during his senior year of high school, he was devastated. Playing professional football had been his dream since he was 8 years old, and with one wrong move, his plans were shot.

What he didn’t expect was what he would find on the road to recovery—his true passion.

“After getting hurt, I was depressed, confused and not in a good place,” he said. “When the day came that I had to get my knee surgically repaired, the health care professionals were extremely compassionate toward me. They understood where I was coming from and asked me questions that made me felt valued, safe and heard. The nurses knew exactly what to say to cheer me up. I knew after this experience that I wanted to be in a position to positively impact people’s lives, the same way these health care professionals positively impacted mine.”

And so, he enrolled in Northern Arizona University’s nursing program.

Growing up in a poor neighborhood in the west valley of Phoenix that was riddled with gang violence and drug presence, Mendivil saw first-hand where choosing the wrong path in life would lead. He came from a family of immigrants and was the first in his family to be raised in the U.S. He wanted to set a good example for his younger siblings.

“The hardships of my childhood only pushed me further to achieve great things in life and exacerbated my thirst for higher education so that I can prove people wrong.”

fernando nurse

Determined to make the most of his college experience, he excelled in his classes, helped mentor other aspiring health care professionals as part of the Student Nurses Association, volunteered at Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC), worked as a residence assistance (RA) for University Housing and taught first-year chemistry students as a supplemental instructor.

During his palliative care rotation at FMC, the skills he had worked so hard to gain all came to a head when he had to care for a terminally ill patient.

“I was teaching the patient about correct incentive spirometer techniques, synonymous to how I taught during my supplemental instructor days. I used therapeutic communication and listening which I learned from my time as an RA. Finally, I was able to answer the patient’s questions and address his concerns by critically thinking, which was attributed to the time and effort focused on my academics and refining my skills.”

He knew the patient wouldn’t survive, but having the chance to positively impact the man’s final days was exactly why he had chosen this profession.

It is because of his education and life skills acquired through NAU’s School of Nursing that he feels prepared to graduate this week as the first in his family to earn a college degree.

He plans to return to the Valley and immediately put his nursing degree to work taking care of his sick mother, who is on the list for a double lung transplant.

“NAU helped mold me into the man I am today, and I will use the skills I learned at this institution to help me positively impact the lives of as many people as I can.”

Northern Arizona University LogoCarly Banks | NAU Communications
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NAU Communications