Today we’d like to introduce you to Elisa García-Villeda.
Hi Elisa, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I am a daughter of first-generation Central American immigrants, and the first person in my family to graduate high school and university in the United States. I had a humble upbringing as a child, my parents worked multiple jobs to make ends meet — but with their hard work, our needs were always met as a family. On top of all of this, my parents somehow managed to support me in every way possible when it came to my education. Being disciplined and working hard was not an option in our household, and I am thankful every day for the values that my parents instilled in myself and my younger sister.
After some time, my parents began their own businesses, and from an early age, I was exposed to entrepreneurship. I even began trading school supplies with classmates, selling lip gloss and crafts I made at home, and in college, I had a small photography business and did some personal fitness training. In 2015, I graduated from nursing school and wanted to open a wellness-related business, but had no idea how I could blend that into nursing.
That year, I began working as a staff nurse — and I soon realized that I did not enjoy the idea of being an employee, and was quickly becoming disappointed with our country’s healthcare system. This resulted in me hopping from job to job over the next few years, trying to find happiness and satisfaction from employment and practicing within this healthcare system — and I never seemed to find it.
In 2019, I began working as a travel nurse — and for the first time in my nursing career, I felt true freedom, because you’re almost like a freelancer. Unfortunately, a piece of me was still a bit unsatisfied because I was still practicing under the same system, no matter which part of the country I was in. I loved being a nurse and taking care of people, but I knew I could no longer continue working in a hospital or in any traditional clinic or outpatient setting. My dreams of opening a wellness-based business from back in nursing school started to resurface in my mind.
I began expanding my knowledge in alternative medicine, wellness, and aesthetics through research and courses, and combining that with my professional practice in critical care and surgery, along with my personal experience with alternative medicine and fitness.
In 2020, I began coaching other nurses on how to use their nursing license to achieve a better work-life balance, and give advice on travel nursing and non-traditional nursing specialties. As I began to network more, I found myself surrounded with nurse entrepreneurs, particularly in the wellness and aesthetics industries — and I was inspired. It was amazing to see other nurses with a similar mindset, being leaders and masters of their craft. My dream of opening a business became clearer to me, and in 2021, I began to put in more work.
I am now less than six weeks away from opening Reforma IV Therapy & Med Spa, and I still cannot believe this moment has finally arrived. I am grateful every day for the events that have happened in my life that have gotten me to this point, for my family and my supportive husband.
I give special thanks to Monica Swint (Fleaux with Mo) and Irnise Williams (YourNurseLawyer) for their wisdom and insight, leadership, courage, and their genuine hope to see me succeed. I am grateful to be a part of such an inspiring community of nurses, and I hope that this will encourage other nurses, women, and minorities to join the movement to change our field and patient care.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Great things never come easy, and I have definitely had my fair share of challenges along the way.
Despite being a great student, I vividly remember how devastated I was when I was rejected from every nursing school I had applied to in the state of Georgia — one nursing school employee even threw my application packet in the trash can right in front of me, without even opening it. I talked to my school counselor at the time — who strongly recommended that I choose another major because I would likely never become a nurse. I almost believed her, but I refused to change my major. I reapplied to nursing schools and got accepted into ONE program — which also happened to be one of the most expensive universities in the Atlanta area. I knew my family and I would never be able to afford that specific school — then I was suddenly blessed with a full-ride academic scholarship.
Once I started working as a nurse, I had a lot of traumatic experiences. Assault from patients and their family members (and having it swept under the rug by administration), constantly seeing death and heartbreak in the ICU, and the devastation in realizing that I didn’t want to practice nursing in our healthcare system and that I couldn’t seem to find my place in all of it. It also broke my heart to see other friends and colleagues coming to that same realization, and a feeling of hopelessness — which is why I try so hard to be vocal about the injustices within our field, to empower other nurses to do the same, and to help them understand what it means to schedule life around work (and not the other way around!).
Even as I have been working to establish my business, I have found myself having to learn new things daily, pivot, place myself in uncomfortable situations, and deal with negative people who attempt to take my work and claim it as their own.
Despite some of the challenges, I wouldn’t change my path for anything, and I’d do everything just the same all over again.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
This year is my 7th anniversary of being a nurse, and in that time I have specialized in several areas of nursing. I mostly worked in critical care, specifically cardio-thoracic surgery, and surgical nursing. In the recent years, I worked as a travel nurse and had the pleasure of serving in states such as California, Texas, and Hawai’i.
I am known for being vocal and honest. As someone who grew up being more reserved, my experiences in my career have shaped me to become more assertive and challenge the culture of nursing.
I am most proud of the people I have met along the way. Travel nursing allowed me to meet other nurses from across the country, and establish life-long friendships. It brings me so much happiness to see everyone I’ve met progressing in life, making an impact within their communities, and joining a movement in which we are driven to change nursing and the field of healthcare.
I believe my experiences are what set me apart. It’s what sets everyone apart from each other. The combination of having first-generation immigrant parents, my upbringing and culture, and my experience as a nurse have all shaped me and led me to where I am today. No one can copy that, or take that away from me.
What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
The most important lesson I go back to is knowing my “why.” This is something I always ask myself before I embark on any journey, and it has to be clear to me.
If that clarity gets lost at some point — I know it’s time to move on. This has always been my internal indicator in deciding whether something is or isn’t for me. I will never force myself to stay in a place where I have to compromise my safety, peace, health or well-being. No one should.
Jordyn Ari Photography
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