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El Paso nursing student speaks out about experience working day of August 3rd shooting

Esai Barrios

EL PASO, Texas-- While he was still a nursing student, Esai Barrios worked the August 3 Walmart shooting in 2019. He went on to experience the beginning of the pandemic as a rookie nurse on the front lines.

Barrios studied at the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center- El Paso. He says the programs and support he found at TTUHSC- El Paso were fundamental to his learning, even the unexpected events he lived through.

"Not only us as nursing students helping the staff there, but we were leaning on each other for help that day," Barrios said, "and even the post-event, we continue to lean on each other, we still check on each other till this day."

During the Walmart mass shooting, the 26-year-old registered nurse saw how the community came together while witnessing how he and his peers had to accelerate their professional growth that day.

"It was a very sad event. I feel as if the community of El Paso really helped us grow that day as well," Barrios explained, "we helped them grow, and I feel as if we're actually on a good path."

Almost immediately after becoming a nurse, Barrios experienced the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Borderland and once again found himself staring chaos in the face.

"It was horrible; I'm not gonna lie to you. I was from one day to the next; our whole unit was converted into a Covid ICU unit." Barrios said. "Week by week, we started filling up. We had to keep opening up units, and before you know it, a whole year-in, and it was mass chaos in my eyes."

Barrios worried about bringing the virus home to his loved ones back then. He searched for help in a Facebook Group, where a woman offered her RV as a place to stay while he was battling on the front lines.

"She actually drove all the way from Alamogordo to my house here in El Paso," Barrios remembered, "she pulled up in front of my house and let me stay in her RV for two months."

In December, Barrios became a clinical coach at the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center- El Paso, where he is teaching his first batch of 70 nursing students.

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Emmanuel Esparza


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