Columbia Nursing student Javier L. Aget-Torres sits on a park bench.

MDE-DNP Student Profile: Javier Torres

Javier L. Aget-Torres, RN, is on a Fast Track to Advanced Practice Nursing

November 11, 2019

I almost didn’t apply to Columbia because, like so many minority students, I felt I wasn’t good enough. Now I tell students, “Be who you are in your application. Don’t let your insecurities get in the way of realizing your full potential. 

Javier L. Aget-Torres, RN

Q: Why did you choose Columbia University School of Nursing?

A: I already had my bachelor’s in psychology with a specialty in marriage and family therapy, and Columbia offered an accelerated nursing curriculum that allows me to get my masters and doctorate, and specialize as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.


Q: Why did you choose the MDE-DNP programs?

A: The MDE program is for people who already have a bachelor’s degree in an area other than nursing and who want to earn a master’s in nursing. Being able to earn a master’s degree was great because it qualified me for graduate level financial aid, and gave me the chance, after completing the accelerated nursing curriculum, to earn my doctorate in an advanced practice specialty. I chose psychiatry because of my prior work experience as a case manager. I saw that a lot of clients had psychiatric needs but as a case manager, I wasn’t able to address those needs. Furthering my career and having the ability to render treatment options was something I was looking for. I thought of becoming a social worker but would have lacked the ability to combine neurobiology, medication management, and therapy. A psychiatric mental health NP is trained to render all these services.


Q: Do you receive financial aid?

A: Yes. Columbia offers a good financial aid package. One of the benefits of having financial aid is that I can focus solely on my studies. It is common for students to burnout working many hours and going to school full-time. This happened to me as an undergraduate. Given that I have chosen nursing as a life-long career, it is important that I do not feel the added stress of having to work long hours to support myself in addition to the stress of being in an accelerated nursing program. Burnout is a dangerous phenomenon and burnout rates among health professionals are incredibly high, so the more we can delay that, the better. I am thankful for the financial aid I am receiving.


Q: How academically rigorous is your program?

A: The first 15 months can be quite rigorous. The heaviest workload comes during the first semester when you have to learn core essentials. The rigor escalates in the DNP part of the program. Now I’m learning how to come up with treatment plans, manage patients, address health complexities, and use medications. We also have to learn interview techniques, theories, and case scenarios in the psychiatric population. It’s definitely doable if you stay organized throughout the program.


Q: What is your relationship like with your professors?

A: Faculty members are always available to discuss anything anytime. If they suspect you’re struggling, they’ll email you to see how things are going. They understand students and are receptive to feedback.


Q: Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?

A: I am a peer mentor to three younger students in my program. I’ve traveled the path they’re on and know where the speed bumps are. I want to pass down knowledge I wish I had gotten.


Q: Where do you hope this education will take you?

A: Eventually, I want to be a solo practitioner in private practice doing therapy and medication management. I want to return to my home city of Las Vegas. They needed trained psychiatric professionals to provide trauma therapy after the mass shooting there in 2017. I also want to provide psychiatric services to underserved and Hispanic populations. In Hispanic culture, we do not discuss mental health. I want the Hispanic population to feel comfortable with mental health. I want to give back to my community.


Q: How has globalization affected you academically or professionally?

A: When I worked as a case manager, sometimes conversations would come up about my clients’ immigration status. I saw children as young as five with severe anxiety about their parents being deported. To see a kid with such anxiety broke my heart.