A Nursing Dream Fulfilled

Hecmarie Berrios, former president of the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden chapter of the Student Nurses’ Association, is now a registered nurse at Cooper University Hospital.

By Jeanne Leong

Hecmarie Berrios started dreaming of becoming a nurse when she was in preschool. “I love caring for and helping others,” Berrios said. That childhood dream became reality this fall when Berrios, who graduated from the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden in May, started a full-time registered nurse position working in a cardiac unit at Cooper University Hospital. Being a nurse presents opportunities that Berrios relishes. “I get a chance to save lives,” she said. “We’re there for the patients every step of the way.”

The path to a nursing degree wasn’t easy for the native of Camden. A 2014 graduate of the Camden Academy Charter High School, the college prep school set her on the track to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. After earning an associate’s degree at Camden County College, she continued her education at Rutgers‒Camden.

Berrios, who received support from Rutgers–Camden’s Educational Opportunity Fund, which is dedicated to supporting low-income and first-generation students, worked two jobs while in school. In spite of the demands work put on her time, she excelled in her courses and participated in numerous campus activities and performed community service work. As the president of the Rutgers School of Nursing‒Camden chapter of the Student Nurses’ Association, Berrios led community service projects such as providing blood pressure screenings, assisting with games and other activities for patients at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and serving meals, seating guests, and cleaning up after meals at Cathedral Kitchen.

Although she gave generously to the campus and surrounding communities, there was a time when she needed help herself. In her junior year, she required assistance when she was struggling in almost every aspect of her life. She was taking very challenging nursing courses—medical-surgical nursing, pediatrics, and pharmacology. The courses required her to spend many hours each day on the classwork, leaving her little time to hold a job to earn money for expenses. “This took a toll on me mentally,” Berrios said.

Berrios was treated for depression at the Student Wellness Center and became healthy again. “I went through challenges, but I wouldn’t really call them obstacles because I had a lot of support and I was able to resolve those challenges,” Berrios said. She said overcoming adversity has made her stronger and prepared her to handle any future personal or professional challenges.

Berrios graduated with numerous honors. She was recognized with a Rutgers‒Camden Lasting Legacy Award, given to graduating seniors for their service to the campus and surrounding community, and membership in three honor societies: The Eta Mu chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, the Zeta Pi chapter of the Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society, and Delta Omega chapter of the women’s studies honor society Iota Iota Iota.

Her long-term goal is to work in health policy advocacy. “Not only do we have to fight for our patients in the hospital, we have to fight for them outside of the hospital,” Berrios said. “We have to advocate for better health care policies. Health care shouldn’t be treated as a privilege like it currently is today, but as a right.”


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