If you ask Kathy Torres ’08 ABSN what her first love is, she will say nursing. But it took a career in teaching to find her true calling.
As an undergraduate at UC Davis, Torres was considering teaching or medicine. After earning a D in chemistry, she decided science wasn’t for her.
Instead, she pursued teaching. She took a job with L.A. Unified School District and taught kindergarten while earning her credential. In her fifth year of teaching, she had a class that was beyond challenging, with many children later identified as special needs, and the school psychologist was her only support. That class made her reconsider her career.
In the evenings, Torres found herself watching “Trauma: Life in the ER,” on the Discovery Channel. “I was fascinated by the way the nurses cared for their critical, often surgical, patients,” she said. “I thought, ‘I would love to do that!’”
She decided to pivot back to medicine, completed her prerequisites and applied to nursing school. Her first and only choice was Mount Saint Mary’s.
“The Mount’s accelerated BSN program is for students who already have their bachelor’s degree,” she says. “It had a great reputation and was perfect for me.” Torres was accepted into the program, quit her teaching job and graduated 11 months later.
She was hired by Torrance Memorial Medical Center straight into the operating room. “I loved it from day one. It was where I belonged,” she says.
Torres still applies a lot of her Mount education every day. “A lot of surgeons comment on my attention to detail – like getting my patient a warm blanket or putting a pillow under their knees,” she says. “I was taught to think about the whole person and treat them as I would my mother, father or sister.”
Nursing in the time of coronavirus has made her role even more crucial for patients. “Normally we allow one family member to be with each patient before and after surgery. All of that was taken away with COVID-19,” she says. “Now I am their sole means of support. It’s more important than ever that I reassure them and smile even though they can’t see it because we are wearing masks.’”
Torres has no plans to leave the operating room. “I’ll retire as an operating room nurse,” she says. “It’s been an incredible 12 years. Every day I learn something new, and being there for my patients is incredibly rewarding.”