Luz Maria Silva, MSN, RN, is a longtime Valley nurse and over the summer won this year’s “Outstanding UTRGV 2020 Mentor Award” for her work assisting colleagues at the university’s nursing program in Brownsville.
Silva first became a Licensed Vocational Nurse, or LVN, in 1983 after graduating from Texas Southmost College. She was one of seven students out of a total of 30 who completed the program, and she accomplished that feat while working her way through school as a new immigrant.
“My family and I emigrated from Mexico when I was only about 17. I started from the bottom getting my GED because I was from a foreign country. Then, I took some classes to learn English,” said Silva.
“My father told us we came to this country to better our lives and the best way we can achieve that is to get an education.”
She is on the board of the Brownsville Community Health Center (DBA New Horizon Medical Center in addition to her 14-year career as a nursing professor in Brownsville.
Silva moved to New Mexico upon graduating from TSC as an LVN and during that time attended school and became a registered nurse (RN) while raising her family.
In 1996, she came back to Brownsville and enrolled in classes to learn how to use computers. Technology was changing the profession rapidly. Since Silva was already on the nursing track, she ended up completing her BSN, then began teaching as an LVN at TSC, then got her master’s degree in nursing.
But prior to completing school, Silva was in a similar situation to many in the Valley with limited financial means.
Silva worked at a grocery store on 14th Street while she completed her LVN program. Becoming a nurse was possible in Silva’s case both due to a flexible employer who understood that school came first, as well as support from instructors.
The nurse says this informs her teaching today and is integral in both making sure that students graduate and retaining staff to keep the program growing.
“I enjoy teaching very much because I can understand what a lot of our students go through, because I went through that — having a language barrier, financial barriers. I can sympathize with them. I feel very fortunate that I’m here and that I can help the students who are seeking an education,” Silva said.
Traditionally there has been a lack of access to medical care locally due to students leaving the Valley to get training. TSC’s LVN program made it possible for Silva to stay in Brownsville to get educated, and her return to the Valley has made it possible to assist in the training of the workforce.
Silva encourages anyone studying to enter the medical field to keep going. “Don’t give up. Keep trying,” she said.
“We have very dedicated professors at the school of nursing. We’re going to help them as much as they can and guide them. We’re not going to let them fall behind.”