After his service in the US Army, Erick Mercado ’22 (NUR) decided to further his education in the UConn Nursing program’s Primary Care Nurse Practitioner concentration. His experience seeing the aftermath of war and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia opened his eyes and inspired him to work toward making a positive impact in the world.
Why did you choose UConn?
UConn has always maintained an excellent reputation in academics. I know RN’s who went through the MEIN program and really had nothing but good things to say about the nursing program. I was exposed to UConn at an early age, my father was the Director of the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center in Storrs, and I have always enjoyed going to the activities put on by PRLACC and enjoyed observing the interactions and repport students and professors had and the power education has on changing and enhancing oneself for the better.
What’s your major and why did you choose it?
I chose the Adult Gerontology Primary Care NP Track. I was always interested in continuing my education and this was a perfect fit. I wanted to be able to build my skill and knowledge base to offer advanced/enhanced care in a specialized setting to my patients. I had spoken to my friend who went through the program and lectures some of the specialized classes there and highly recommended going through UConn’s AGPC NP track. He had nothing but great things to say about the program, and I was invited to see him lecture at the SON, where he introduced me to Dr. Ivy Alexander who is the director of the AGPC NP program and who would become my Primary track coordinator/advisor.
What are your plans after graduation?
My plan after graduation is to prepare for my national certification exam and seek a career specializing in orthopedics and public health and volunteering my time to those in need.
What activities were you involved with as a student?
I am involved in the Primary Care Nurse Practitioners Caring for Underserved Populations (PCNP CUPS) program as part of my clinical rotation as an AGPC student that encompasses additional courses on behavioral health, Veteran health/PTSD and additional education relevant to today’s underserved populations, and clinical rotations providing high-quality evidence-based care to our underserved populations.
How has UConn prepared you for the next chapter in life?
The UConn Graduate program has prepared me for my role as an APRN by consistently challenging me didactically and clinically throughout my journey in the AGPC program. This program emphasizes the importance of passionate, evidence-based patient centered-care, scientific research methods, theory, advanced physical examination encompassing a vast amount of healthcare topics critical in our evolution to becoming Nurse Practitioners. It has influenced and shaped my self-confidence, and in doing so helped me appreciated more of the dynamics involved with providing care firsthand and that the care that we provided as Nurse Practitioners is second to none.
What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?
The biggest and most pleasant surprise for me was the amount of support given by all the graduate school faculty. They are all invested in your well-being and success and provide availability by email, phone, or video conferencing, and give support and advice in understanding and mastering the material presented. It was totally the opposite of what I expected and really helped my self-confidence going into this graduate program.
Any advice for incoming first-year students?
Become involved in your universities programs whether it be volunteer work, a professors assistant helping other students overcome struggles with course work, become involved in your student government and make it a habit in your degree program to communicate with your professors consistently. They can provide references for employment or entry into a graduate degree program. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, the professors are there to guide you and help you to understand the material and make sure you feel comfortable with the topics taught.
What’s one thing every student should do during their time at UConn?
Go to the UConn dairy bar and enjoy some good ice cream and attend at least one UConn basketball game at Gampel Pavilion, the atmosphere is surreal.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
All my professors were excellent and passionate about teaching. They all had excellent insight into the Nurse Practitioner field from experience and their specialty and I truly cannot say enough about the faculty in the UConn NP program. Dr. Alexander the AGPC program director has been truly instrumental in my successes through her compassion and advice and support especially during my recovery from my heart attack and would like to extend a special “Thank You!!” to her.
What’s one thing that will always make you think of UConn?
The support from all my professors, making friends with all my classmates, and being a graduate of the UConn AGPC NP program. It was truly important for me to graduate with my Master’s, as I wasn’t the best student in high school and fell in love with learning at an older age, and the UConn program really helped fulfill my need for learning and really build my confidence in attaining an advanced degree.