How My Past Inspired My Future: UPMC Nursing Educator Shares Her Story

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UPMC Schools of Nursing, four, hospital-based nursing schools, exist to prepare our graduates to enter the workforce to become leaders in health care and advocates for their patients. Behind this goal exists our inspiring, multi-talented, and dynamic Schools of Nursing faculty, each of whom bring a different set of skills and an incredible story to the table. Join us as we share their stories


 By Mayra Toney, UPMC Mercy School of Nursing

I am Mayra Toney, and I am an advanced educator at UPMC Mercy School of Nursing. I have been a UPMC employee for 28 years and a faculty member for 12 years. The road has been long to get to where I am today, but it’s all been well worth it!

HOW I LEARNED TO CARE IN EL SALVADOR

For as long as I can remember, my desire to be a nurse has always been there. Most notably, this desire to be a nurse was influenced by my aunt, who was a public health nurse in El Salvador, my home country. During my summer vacations when I was in high school, I would go back and visit her in El Salvador. She would let me accompany her as she visited the towns where indigenous peoples resided. Sometimes it meant traveling high up into the mountains by Jeep!

 My desire to be a nurse was influenced by my aunt, who was a public health nurse in El Salvador. … She would let me accompany her as she visited the towns where indigenous peoples resided. Sometimes it meant traveling high up into the mountains by Jeep!”

I was enthralled to watch her work as she patiently provided health education to new moms, teaching them about the care of their newborns. In this setting, where folk remedies are practiced, my aunt’s ability to provide culturally-congruent nursing care was dependent on her eliciting trust form whatever group of people she was providing care to. Her ability to provide care while respecting the beliefs and needs of her patients was very inspirational to me. She practiced culturally sensitive care way before it became a “buzz word.” She was the source of my philosophy of nursing — now known as the UPMC value Dignity & Respect.

My experiences in El Salvador inspired me to get involved in health care back here in America. My first experience with UPMC was as a candy striper at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC when I was in high school. Later, as a senior in high school, I got a job after school working in the mailroom at Magee.

Attending the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing was a long-time goal of mine and something I had my eye on during my senior year of high school. Financially, I knew that it would not be easy, so I decided to worked part-time at Magee and took as many prerequisite classes as I could at a local community college. From there, I went on to nursing school at the University of Pittsburgh, where I worked weekends and summers in Magee’s Tumor Registry. During this time, my mom would help out by taking on extra shifts at work so she could help me fulfill my goal to attend nursing school.

WHY I AM PROUD

When I think about this part of my story, I thank God for my mom. She is the biggest blessing; the courage she had for both of us to leave our homeland long ago in El Salvador is beyond description. The determination for both of us to succeed cannot be quantified. It has been her encouragement, patience, and prayers that have carried me through many challenges. She and my husband are the most important people in my life. My husband provided endless encouragement and patience and encouraged me to go back to school for my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Without either of them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

The courage my mom had for both of us to leave our homeland long ago in El Salvador is beyond description. The determination for both of us to succeed cannot be quantified.”

I now hope to be an inspiration to my students — the mentor and supporter that encourages them to be compassionate and culturally sensitive caregivers, as my aunt taught me. The students I get to mentor are of all ages and backgrounds. Some had previous careers, some are married, and some are single parents, but they’re all like I once was: they’re on the journey to become a nurse. I admire how my students are juggling various responsibilities and are now in a 16-month nursing program that is very rigorous and time-intensive. The best experience for me comes every year at graduation when I get to see my students’ accomplishments. It brings with it a sense of pride; their success is something to be applauded.

A WORD OF ADVICE

If any future nurses are out there, I want to say this to you: if your goal is to truly be a nurse, never give up on your dream. Provide care as you would expect it or how you would want your family to be treated. This path takes patience, perseverance, and a positive attitude, but it’s well worth it.

Take it from me, I’ve been doing it for 28 years!


UPMC Schools of Nursing serves a diverse group of students whose unifying characteristic is their passion for patient care. Whether a recent high school graduate or a second-degree student, there’s a place for you at UPMC Schools of Nursing. Learn more about each program or schedule a campus