Learning and CaringTrujillo continues her journey


Article by Julie Waechter

Denise Trujillo '07 is not one to rest on her laurels. In fact, the magnitude of her recent career and education achievements did not really register until she received a call from Alumni Relations Director Lori Laske '91, '01, telling her she'd been selected as ASC's 2011 Exceptional New Alumna.

"I literally had to pull over -- I was so overwhelmed; I was crying," Trujillo recalled. "It's been such a good year. I honestly never, ever thought I'd be where I am today. I feel so honored to receive this award."

In recognition of her professional accomplishments, Trujillo will be honored as the 2011 Exceptional New Alumna at the Homecoming Banquet on September 30. Call 719-587-8110 for tickets and information.

A nurse for many years, Trujillo wasted no time in enrolling in Adams State's RN-BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree completion program when it began in 2005. BSN in hand, she then launched into Regis University's online Master of Science in Nursing Leadership, which she completed in May. She's just begun Regis' nurse practitioner program. In January she was named Director of Nursing at Valley-Wide Health Systems in Alamosa. Trujillo advanced herself -- and finished her MSN with a 4.0 GPA -- while continuing to work fulltime and raise her son, now 15.

"It was really hard to do, but I was determined. I needed to know I was smart enough," she said. "I would freak out if I got a 98 -- and I never used to be that way about grades." Trujillo was recently inducted into the Alpha Kappa Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the nursing honor society.

ASC's BSN program a catalyst

Waiting in line to receive her MSN diploma in Denver, she had a moment to reflect on her accomplishments. "I was thinking about my son, staying up until 5 in the morning studying, being here with these younger kids who have so much opportunity... "I am so grateful that ASC began the BSN program -- it kicked me off. In a rural area there are not a lot of opportunities to grow. I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without the BSN," said Trujillo. She was nominated for the alumni award by ASC Director of Nursing Amanda Jojola and the entire nursing faculty. "What truly makes Denise deserving of this award is her caring and giving heart," Jojola said. "Denise is a San Luis Valley native and seeks every opportunity to give back to her community. She has donated so much of her time and energy to help our nursing department succeed."

Trujillo and other ASC nursing alumni also made a positive impression with the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education's evaluation team when it conducted an accreditation visit of the program in January.:They were very impressed that so many of us had gone on with our education. That is because a certain person set that tone for us: Amanda Jojola," Trujillo said. "I want to walk in her footsteps. She set the example to say 'You can advance in your education.' Her standard is high. I really appreciate that. It shows in the nursing staff."

In turn, Trujillo is finding she's also becoming a role model by conveying the importance of education to her staff. Recently a clinic nurse in Durango told her: "I feel so inspired by your story.""That made my day," Trujillo said. The value of advanced education is clear to Trujillo. "I learned so much. I can walk the talk of health care economics. My master's gave me more understanding of how things really process, why things are, and how they should be. I can offer input, instead of just agreeing."

Leading for change

She also appreciates the support of Dr. Richard Velasquez, Valley-Wide's medical director. "He gave me the opportunity to grow with the organization as it changes. This organization has been really supportive of changes in staff roles, unit structuring, and continuing education. Your staff will thrive if you can make positive changes. We have a great team.

"My expectation is that you respect everyone you encounter, treat everyone with dignity and fairness. If you can't do that, I say, maybe you're in the wrong profession." Among the changes she's implemented already at Valley-Wide is a quarterly Competency Skills Fair and other training to advance the skills of nurses and medical assistants. She also hopes to restructure staffing so that each clinic has a lead clinical nurse, a measure she believes will improve communication and patient flow.

"I have so much ahead of me," Trujillo said. "I have really done a lot of good things in my life, but I'm not done yet."

Denise Trujillo on paper

Professional Memberships

  • Alpha Kappa Chapter at Large Sigma Theta Tau
  • ASC Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses
  • Emergency Nurses Association* Society of Pediatric Nursing
  • Regional Trauma Advisory Councilvolunteer service
  • Valley Wide Health Services' Migrant Outreach Program* Colorado State Patrol's Don't Drink and Drive School Awareness
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Tu Casa sexual assault awareness outreach