VCARE program helps student overcome PTSD symptoms
For Eduardo Alegria, going to college after serving in the military, seemed an impossible dream.
Now, with just a few days away from graduation, he can’t believe he did it.
“Going into the classroom was harder than being deployed,” said Alegria. “After starting school, I experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. At the time, I thought I would never be able to manage the rigorous demands of school work.”
But after joining the USF College of Nursing’s veterans to bachelor of science in nursing, also known as VCARE, he saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
“VCARE faculty, advisors and students helped me get through my problems,” said Alegria. “They have been my support system from day one. They understood my struggles, and they made me feel at ease even when I was overwhelmed.”
Alegria served in the United States Army as a medic for more than 12 years. He served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. He decided to take a break from military in 2015 to go back to school.
“My journey hasn’t been easy, but I am glad I chose the VCARE program at USF Nursing,” said Alegria. “This college gave me the emotional support, the education and the training to succeed.”
And that shows through Alegria’s experience at USF Nursing’s clinical partner, Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH). He said his preceptorship at SMH has helped him become a better healthcare provider.
“During my preceptorship at SMH, I didn’t just help or shadow a nurse, but I was also taking care of patients,” said Alegria. “They allowed me to be more autonomous, and that made a big difference.”
Alegria moved to Sarasota from Washington State with his wife and two step-sons a few years ago. He plans to stay in Manatee County after graduation and serve the local community.
Alegria started VCARE in Aug. 2015, as part of the second program cohort. He is one of 20 VCARE students to graduate this semester. They are only the second cohort group to graduate with a VCARE degree from USF.
“I’m really proud of what I’ve done,” he said. “PTSD symptoms can be debilitating, so I could have easily given up. But I didn’t, thanks to the constant support from my family and friends here at USF Nursing.”
With those struggles now in rear-view mirror, Alegria is looking forward to attending the USF Nursing Pinning Ceremony on Dec. 8 and USF Commencement on Dec. 10.
“It will be an emotional weekend,” he said. “My wife, my stepchildren, friends and my mother, who flew from Peru, will be here to celebrate with me. I’m excited and humbled.”
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Story by Vjollca Hysenlika