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NMI’s Paula Castro passes NCLEX, joins New York front liners

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PAULA Castro, born and raised in the CNMI, recently passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses or NCLEX-RN and is now among the Covid-19 frontline personnel of one of the hardest hit cities in the nation, New York.

Castro earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the New York University-Rory Meyers College of Nursing in May 2020.

“This is my second degree,” Castro said in an email to Variety. “I got my first degree at the University of Nevada Las Vegas in May 2018 where I studied Spanish for Professions with a focus in Medical and Legal Studies and minored in Global Entrepreneurship and Pre-Nursing.”

She is now working in the neurosurgery critical care unit of the New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.

“I started working in the hospital during my third semester of nursing school and continued on until the end of nursing school and while studying for my NCLEX exam,” she said. She spent her weekends working at the hospital and her weekdays studying and working at her other jobs.

While NYC was battling Covid-19 cases, Castro had to get her degree, review and study for NCLEX. “It was mentally, emotionally and physically tolling during the [Covid-19] peak months,” Castro said. 

CNMI-born Paula Castro recently passed the NCLEX-RN and joined the frontline workers in New York City. Contributed photo

In March, when the pandemic hit NYC, Castro said her unit was one of the first to be converted into a full Covid-19 ICU. “This meant that we only had Covid patients for the duration of the peak in NYC, which lasted three months.”

When the city was still reeling from the pandemic, Castro witnessed many heartbreaking scenes of patients dying alone without any family members because no visitors were allowed in the hospital.

She said it was also very challenging going to work each shift knowing the risk that she was facing.

“This was not the world of healthcare I expected to enter. But in the short time that I have been in the nursing world, I have learned that you have to be adaptable and you have to adapt quickly in order to give your patients the best quality care that they deserve,” Castro said.

Instead of being discouraged, she was more inspired to continue to show up for work every day because she had seen other people who were pushing on despite the pandemic.

“The pandemic in NYC itself has died down. New York is actually one of the only states in the U.S. that is on track to containing Covid-19,” Castro said.

“Now I am definitely much more at ease with work than I was a couple months ago,” she said. “I feel so grateful to have survived and still be alive because just a few months ago that was not a guarantee. But I am mostly grateful to have been able to do my part on the front lines when I was needed most — after all, that is why I chose a career like nursing.”

Castro said many lives have been affected and many plans were put on hold because of the pandemic.

“To the youth, whose plans and studies were stalled, don’t give up on your dream or your goals. Your education and ambition may be on hold right now because of this pandemic, but it will not be this way forever. My advice is to get creative and continue to work on what you can and do what you are able to do in the meantime. Plant the seeds for that growth during this downtime, so that you are ready to grow when the world is running again,” she said.

Castro said she is also grateful to the frontline workers in the CNMI “for choosing to show up every day.”

“It is not easy to leave the comfort of your home and family and knowingly put your own life at risk, but you continue to do it anyway. You inspire me more than you know,” she said.

She appealed to  community members to do their part by observing social distancing rules, avoiding large gatherings, and wearing face masks.

“I would hate to see the tragedy that struck my city to hit the island of my people, too,” she said.

Paula Castro is the daughter of Lee Q. Castro of Tinian and Cherry R. Castro who is originally from the Philippines.

Both her parents were nurses at the Commonwealth Health Center on Saipan and were actively involved in community health efforts while they were still residing on island.

“They were the ones who inspired me to pursue nursing,” Paula Castro said.

As a child on Saipan, she attended Garapan Elementary School and Mount Carmel School.

Her family moved to the mainland in 2009.

Paula Castro is also an active blogger and has an Instagram account, which highlights fashion, travel and lifestyle topics.

Follow her at www.VogueinVegas.com or @xoxopaula on Instagram.

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