The CU Nursing Alumni Association Board of Directors appoints new members

The University of Colorado College of Nursing Alumni Association Board of Directors is pleased to announce three new members: Etzany (Etzy) Diaz Ocampo, Kelsey McDonald Gibson and Sarah Daley.

As the governing body of the CU College of Nursing’s alumni population, the board honors outstanding alumni with the Annual Alumni Association Awards and the DAISY Awards, provides opportunities for continuing professional development in nursing, creates mentorship programs, and hosts events such as the Aug. 27 Brunch at Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Please join us in welcoming these distinguished alumnae to the board!

Spotlight on Etzany (Etzy) Diaz Ocampo

Etzany (Etzy) Diaz Ocampo

Etzany (Etzy) Diaz Ocampo’s journey into nursing began 15 years ago when her younger sister was diagnosed with cancer. Diaz Ocampo, RN, BSN ’18, closely involved in her sister’s care, interpreted health care orders for the family. It was then that her sister recognized Diaz Ocampo’s abilities and said, “One day you will be an amazing oncology nurse!”

Diaz Ocampo was born in Mexico and received DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) assistance in the United States. She graduated from the CU College of Nursing in 2018 in the Undergraduate Integrated Nursing Pathway program.

Throughout her education, her parents pushed her to do well in class and attend college—even if it meant working overtime to afford it. Diaz Ocampo was the first in her family to graduate high school, go to college, and eventually graduate from both.

Today Diaz Ocampo is married and has two wonderful children. She works as an RN at the Cancer Infusion Center and Care Clinic at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and is interested in becoming a board-certified oncology nurse.

Her time as a nurse is in honor of her beloved sister, whom Diaz Ocampo describes as the “rock and foundation” of her nursing career.

Diaz Ocampo is urging current CU College of Nursing students to realize that nothing is impossible. “There will be days when you want to quit, but remember why you started this career,” she says. “Find your roots in nursing. Find your inspiration.”

Kelsey McDonald Gibson in the spotlight

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Kelsey McDonald Gibson

Kelsey McDonald Gibson, RN, BSN ’21, pirouetted from ballet to a career as a nurse.

While traveling with a professional ballet company during college, Gibson reached out to the nurses who were helping to treat her dance-related injuries. As someone who has always been fascinated by the medical field, she realized that nursing was ideal for her when she transitioned from the physically demanding world of ballet.

Gibson’s experience while attending the CU College of Nursing was split between online and face-to-face classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the students and faculty adjusted to the new way of learning, she says she noticed a special bond between her peers. They supported each other and adapted to new ways of learning together.

During the “virtual year” of her undergraduate degree, Gibson was involved with the University of Colorado Student Nurses Association (CUSNA), an honors research program, and on-campus clinical training. Combining her love of cardiology and her previous career as a “professional athlete” (aka ballerina), her research examined heart rate and exercise in cancer patients.

Today, Gibson is a Nurse at Heart Floor at Children’s Hospital Colorado while working toward certification as a sexual assault nurse examiner. Her goal is to join the sexual assault team at Children’s Hospital part-time while continuing her regular work at the Heart Floor.

She encourages current nursing students to remain open to exploring various professional specialties.

“I never thought I would end up in pediatrics — I had imagined being in the ICU and ER for so long,” she says. “As soon as I tried pediatrics, it clicked.”

Spotlight on Sarah Daley

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Sarah Dalley

As a child, Sarah Daley, RN, BSN Class of 2021 wanted to be a vet because caring for animals was an early passion.

While animals have remained an important part of Daley’s life, her path has shifted to other pursuits. She enlisted in the United States Coast Guard, where she served as a first responder for five years.

“This is where I really discovered that I enjoy helping others in emergencies,” says Daley.

The travel and variety offered by the Coast Guard provided Daley with wonderful life experiences.

After Daley’s hiring ended, she transitioned into academia, using part of her Veteran GI bill to explore different career paths. Partially fulfilling her childhood dream, she worked as a veterinary technician. In 2016, she graduated from the University of California-Davis with a BS in cognitive psychology. The following year, after completing his military service, Daley and her husband moved to Colorado, and she decided to pursue a career in nursing.

Most notably, the medical knowledge Daley acquired in the Coast Guard – and as a veterinarian – gave her a head start on the CU Nursing bachelor’s degree program. She used her psychological expertise as a mentor for children at an outpatient mental health center. Daley found her young clients inspirational and they taught her how to process and communicate difficult issues in new ways.

In her current position at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, Daley uses these acquired skills on the ward for medical, surgical, telemetric, and rehabilitative treatments.

“There’s a multitude of patients on this floor, and sometimes — particularly within the veteran population — patients just want to be heard and are looking for someone to listen to them.”

“Working in this environment as a veteran has been a blessing,” says Daley. “Serving veterans and connecting with them on a personal level is fulfilling.”

Daley says she would like to return to school to become a nurse in the future. The rural area where she lives lacks medical care and she wants to help extend medical care to a community that needs it.

She advises nursing students to try everything in school.

“During a clinical stay, you always volunteer for the procedure, the IV, everything — even if it seems scary,” she says. “The only way to learn is to do it yourself. Your confidence in your abilities will grow exponentially.”

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