March 23, 2023
Even with a lifelong passion to work in healthcare and a supportive family to back him, the journey for Nikolas to become a nurse was not an easy one — but he never stopped believing in himself or his dreams.
"Nursing is in my blood," he said at the West Coast University 2023 Commencement ceremony, before receiving his master's degree in nursing, with a family-nurse practitioner emphasis. "It’s been a calling since birth I think."
Raised in the Diamond Bar area by a nurse mom and her sisters — who were also nurses — Nikolas knew his whole life that he was going to be a nurse too. But, unable to find the right bachelor of nursing program, he ended up "making a lot of pizzas" for a few years after high school while completing his college prerequisites and earning an associate degree. Eventually, Nikolas decided to enroll first in the vocational nursing program at American Career College to “get his feet wet and get some experience” before starting his BSN.
"That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life," he said. "I would recommend for almost everyone to go through the VN first because that gives you the discipline you need to excel in the very demanding program that is West Coast University’s BSN program."
After graduating from American Career College-Orange County, Nikolas worked for a year as a licensed vocational nurse before starting the BSN program at WCU-Orange County in 2016. He graduated magna cum laude three years later, while working full time as a nurse, and attributed a lot of his success at WCU to the early lessons learned at American Career College.
“ACC set the foundation for my nursing skills, for my love of nursing," he said. "I said to myself ‘I’m just gonna go for it and keep going.’ And I never stopped.”
Even during the pandemic — when everything shut down — Nikolas said he kept moving toward his goals with the help and inspiration of loved ones and family, especially his grandfather.
"My grandfather was basically my father, the patriarch of the family. He helped my aunts and mom all become nurses and he was the driving force that carried me along the way," Nikolas said. "Shortly after I got my RN — that was his lifelong goal for me — he passed during COVID and that was another drive for me to really do it — for him, and my family."
With his fiancé's blessing and active encouragement, less than a year after graduating with his BSN and while working as a COVID nurse, Nikolas decided to enroll in WCU's MSN-FNP online program.
“My fiancé pushed me to become a nurse practitioner. She’s a pharmacist, so after I became an RN, she was like ‘OK, now it’s time – let’s keep moving forward,’" he said. "When the pandemic started, and I became an RN, it was a challenging decision to go right back into school — but I did it.”
And just as going to ACC and being an LVN had benefited his BSN studies, Nikolas said his time at WCU and the skills he learned as an RN helped him excel during his master's program.
“It’s not an easy program but working together with all these amazing nurses from all these different backgrounds is what really set the course for me," he said.
Now having graduated summa cum laude with his master's, Nikolas wants to instill hope into the next generation of nurses and is quick to encourage them to follow their dreams and never give up.
"This is the best decision you could make. And if you start, don’t stop," he said. “Find friends, work together — you guys can do it together. We can do this together.”
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