Maria Garza’s journey into the healthcare field started by playing “pretend” as a child. She remembers playing “doctor” with her dolls as a young girl and explains the feeling of being a caretaker as a very natural role.
“I never felt like I was confused about what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do. In high school I started working for a dentist initially, but I knew that ultimately my goal was to go into a nursing program,” she states. When asked why she selected the nursing field as the medical area she wanted to study she explained that the nursing industry itself is such a broad field with so many different areas of specialization to choose from. She ultimately chose to specialize in neonatal care.
Mari is a licensed Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP-BC,) a Registered Nurse (RN) and is board certified in Neonatal Resuscitation; receiving her RN degree from South Texas College in 2004, her RN to BSN at the University of Texas at Arlington in 2011 and lastly earning her Neonatal Nurse Practitioner degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in 2013.
Mari was born in South Texas to a family of migrant workers who traveled the routes to and from Florida, Michigan and eventually back to Texas when her father retired from migrant working. She was in third grade when they finally settled in the valley. Mari has ten siblings; seven brothers and two sisters in which she is the youngest. Although she comes from a large family, Mari is the only child to have graduated from high school and the only one who pursued a career in healthcare. Her siblings were all born in small towns in Mexico, so she believes this was a large factor which held back her siblings from having the educational opportunities she did.
When Mari started the nursing program her son was one year old and was the motivation she needed to keep going so he was a major factor in her educational success. “I never really had the encouragement of going to school or pursuing a career from my family, so I had to push myself.” Despite being mostly on her own, Garza pushed through going to school while being a mother. Her husband at the time was working in Houston so getting through her daily tasks of school and motherhood were exhausting yet her motivation always remained strong.
“I knew that I did not want the same struggles that my parents had in trying to provide for their children. I wanted a better future for my son, my family, and myself.”
Her first position in the medical industry was at the Women’s Hospital of Texas in Houston where she was working in the newborn nursery. She rotated through the NICU unit and caught a glimpse of the NICU world where her interest was instantly sparked. From Houston she transferred to McAllen Medical Center and started working in their NICU department doing bedside and post-delivery transitional nursing as well as floating level II NICU and postpartum. After a few years at McAllen Medical, she then put in for a position at the Women’s Hospital at Renaissance and worked there from 2014 to 2019 where she worked with high risk deliveries and performed procedures such as Endotracheal intubations, lumbar punctures and thoracentesis.
Mari is currently employed at Mission Regional Medical Center as a level III Nurse Practitioner in the NICU. In order to become a level III trauma center, Mission hospital is required to have a neonatal nurse practitioner in house 24/7 so Mari Garza is scheduled for twelve-hour day shifts. When the offer was presented to Mari, it fit her schedule as she had her own newborn baby at home. Mari Garza is going on a year and a half at Mission Regional Medical Center and is very happy with her position. She loves her team of respiratory therapists and fellow neonatologists. She finds her team extremely friendly and respectful of each other and says this is what helps make her days at work enjoyable.
Mari Garza is now a mother of two; a seventeen-year-old and a two-year-old. She truly cherishes her children and explains her outlook on life and part of her strong love for her family stems from working in the NICU and seeing the good and bad of life’s natural path of birth.
For individuals considering a career in neonatal care, she says, “The world of Neonatologists is always changing. You will never get bored; you will never stop learning. I think that goes in general for nursing… there are new advances, new techniques, new protocols that come up every single day and that’s one of the best things that I like about my job.” The constant learning curve keeps Mari Garza’s mind active and sharp and is what continually fuels her passion towards healthcare.