Since The University of Texas-Pan American began offering its Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program, Dr. Beatriz "Betty" Bautista has trained hundreds of registered nurses looking to further help patients by becoming nurse practitioners.
On Jan. 24, The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce honored Bautista with its Nurse Practitioner of the Year award.
Cynthia Sakulenzki, chief executive officer of the RGV Hispanic Chamber said this is the sixth year the Chamber has given out the awards. Recipients are nominated by members of the community and are chosen based on their experience, participation in the community and accomplishments in their roles in the medical field, she said.
"The medical community plays a very important part in the lives of the residents of the Rio Grande Valley," Sakulenzki said."We are very proud of our medical community here ... We will put them up against any other physicians elsewhere. The RGV has grown to be a medical mecca and is much admired and recognized in the United States."
Bautista, who helped form UT Pan American's FNP program and is now its director, said she sees the award as an affirmation of the program.
"I'm just happy to share my award with the University," Bautista said. "It represents our program, really."
Bautista, who has more than 30 years experience as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner, earned her bachelor's degree from Dallas Baptist University in 1982.
"As a nurse we see patients holistically ... so after you practice for awhile, you start being able to evaluate patients a little bit more and you get to a point where you really want to be able to do more for that patient, so you want to study more and that's what happened to me," she said.
Having the desire to help her patients and community more, Bautista earned her master's degree from The University of South Carolina's FNP program with honors in 1990. After graduation, she was immediately hired by the Richland County Health Department in Columbia, S.C. where she worked for a specialty clinic that focused on adolescents.
Bautista returned to the Rio Grande Valley in the 1990s and worked as a family nurse practitioner for clinics throughout the Valley. And in the late 1990s, Bautista, who was working for UTPA's Student Health Services, was asked to help start the FNP program.
"I was ready to share my knowledge, my clinical expertise," Bautista said. "We have students who are at the stage where they want to do more for their patients and come to our program so that we can help them grow and give them the skills to do that."
Since the program began, UTPA has graduated more than 150 family nurse practitioners.
"I'm proud of all of our graduates out there," she said. Wanting to hone her skills further and prepare for the FNP program to transition into a doctoral program, Bautista earned her Doctorate of Nursing Practice from The Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo, Utah in 2008.
She is also the president of the organization for the Valley Advanced Practice Nurse Association, where she is able to keep in touch with fellow students and provide advice to fellow nurse practitioners on treating patients.
Learn more about the FNP program.