Rachel Gray ’21

San Jose, California (Silicon Valley)
Hemodialysis BSN, RN and an MSN-FNP student.

What is your current position?
Hemodialysis BSN, RN and an MSN-FNP student.

Where are you from?
San Jose, California (Silicon Valley)

Tell us about yourself.
As a child, I remember one of the first toys my parents bought me was a PlaySkool medical kit. Inside the medical bag was a bandage box, stethoscope, blood pressure cuff and sphygmomanometer. My younger brother — an infant at the time — was my first “patient.” Little did I know that playing with toy instruments in my early years would lead me to become a nurse practitioner one day. I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world, but I didn’t know how. My parents kept telling me, “just choose nursing; it’s stable.” Looking back, I thank my parents because it was the best decision I ever made in my life.

I proceeded to obtain a nursing degree one step at a time: certified nursing assistant (CNA) to licensed vocational nurse (LVN), earning my Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), and then my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In 2015, I attended California State University (CSU)-San Marcos and maintained a 3.93 grade point average; I was awarded Dean’s List recognition in 2016 before graduating with my BSN in 2017.

I currently work at Satellite Healthcare as an in-center nocturnal hemodialysis (HD) nurse. My accomplishments are a testament of my dedication to make lives better for people with kidney disease: Compliance Advocate of the Year (2020); Superhero Q3 (2020); Employee of the Month (September 2020); Satellite Employee Advisory Team Committee (2019); and Hero awards for Service Excellence, Servant Leadership, and Respect (2018 – 2019).

As a USC-FNP student, I served as secretary for the Association of Student Nurse Practitioners in 2019 and am currently a Nursing@USC Student Ambassador. These positions helped me branch out of my comfort zone and foster my leadership skills. The students I’ve met along the way have inspired me to be the best representation of USC.

Why did you decide to earn your Master of Science in Nursing?
My commitment to lifelong learning is my driving reason for earning a Master of Science in Nursing. My ultimate goal is to obtain a doctoral degree, so that I can become an expert in my field and better serve all people of color, gender, culture, social and economic backgrounds in my community.

Why did you decide to pursue your degree with Nursing@USC?
I decided to pursue my degree with Nursing@USC because of its unique integration of nursing and social work. Students develop a deeper understanding of how bio-psycho-social factors influence health. While the program is rigorous, it offers the flexibility to juggle school, work and life demands; it also enables students to become excellent evidence-based nurse practitioners.

Do you attend Nursing@USC part time or full time?
I attend Nursing@USC part time.

What excites you most about the program?
The most exciting thing about this program are the interactions between the faculty and students. As funny as this may sound, I look forward to our weekly live sessions and the opportunity to see everyone’s faces and learn something new every day.  

Is there a course you have particularly enjoyed? If so, why?
Clinical practicums are an opportunity to showcase my various competencies, brush up on new skills and represent USC in the Bay Area.

Tell us about your on-campus intensive (OCI) experiences.
OCI experiences are on-campus and intense (in a good way): they are jam-packed with hands-on experience in theory and application. It’s also a treat to be able to meet my teachers and classmates in real life. 

OCI-2 is similar in nature but done virtually. I especially enjoyed the telemedicine encounters during which students practiced Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) on a virtual platform.

Is there a particular professor or faculty member with whom you have especially enjoyed working?
All the professors here at Nursing@USC care about the success and well-being of their students. They understand this program is rigorous and students have other obligations besides school. Each faculty member imparts their own clinical experience and expertise, seeking to help students become more well-rounded and multi-faceted clinicians.

Dr. Kirkland motivates me to be thorough and always prepared, encouraging students to “soar high.” Dr. Woodruff provides entertainment during our live sessions, which is needed to offset an otherwise serious academic setting. Dr. Becker and Dr. Schneiderman equip me with the tools for evidence-based research and practice. Dr. Zappas and Dr. O’Neil are the reasons why I have wonderful clinical sites. Dr. Hildebrand imparts her knowledge of pharmacology, so I can safely prescribe medications. Dr. Walton-Moss prepares me to perform a comprehensive head-to-toe assessment. Dr. Sanchez instructs me on the accuracy of my clinical writeups and gives me the foundation for succinct documentation.

Tell us about your clinical placement experience thus far.
My clinical placements thus far have been nothing less than excellent. I was lucky enough to be paired with the most awesome doctors, Dr. Belk and Dr. Osofsky. They encourage me to perform at my highest potential and be a confident provider.

After graduation, what is next for you?
After graduation, I have many plans:

  • Take my boards as soon as possible and become gainfully employed.
  • Take my family to Disney World (contingent on the United States reaching herd immunity).
  • Become a preceptor for USC FNP students (paying it forward).
  • Become a leading healthcare provider and represent USC in the Bay Area.
  • Participate in conducting research and clinical trials.
  • Obtain my doctoral degree and become an instructor.

What else should we know about you?
My pronouns are she/her. I represent the first-generation immigrants who strive for a better life in America. I support Black Lives Matter, Stop the Asian Hate, the LGBTQI+ community, the economically disadvantaged and the disabled. I believe in fighting injustice and inequality; I advocate for clean energy and protecting our wildlife and our planet.

Special thanks to the faculty and staff of Nursing@USC for this spotlight. Thank you to my parents, family, co-workers, manager and assistant manager for believing in me and helping me achieve my dreams.