Jace Frye, an alumnus of The University of New Mexico-Gallup, poses for a photo during the New Mexico Nursing Excellence Awards ceremony April 15, 2023, at the Sandia Resort and Casino.
UNM-Gallup nursing alum receives nomination for excellence award
Jace Frye dedicates honor to former classmate who was killed before she could graduate
By Richard Reyes | Thursday, June 1, 2023
GALLUP, N.M. — A graduate of The University of New Mexico-Gallup Nursing Program earned a nomination for a nursing excellence award in April and dedicated it to one of his former classmates who didn’t get the chance to graduate.
Jace Frye, who graduated with an Associate of Science in nursing from UNM-Gallup in 2011, was one of 10 people nominated in the Emerging Nurse Leader category for the New Mexico Nursing Excellence Awards. He was nominated by his former employer, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe.
“I was very excited to be nominated,” Frye said. “I was not expecting to win the award because I knew I was up against quite a few people who probably had a little more experience under their belts. … Still, the nomination was an award in itself for me and my wife and my family. We were very thrilled about this and feel very uplifted and proud of my nomination.”
Frye dedicated his nomination to his former UNM-Gallup nursing classmate, the late Christina Joe, a National Guardsman from Standing Rock who was killed in a drunken driving crash in 2011 before she was able to graduate.
Frye said he and Joe started the nursing program together, failed classes together, participated in the Student Nurses Association together, worked together and would have graduated together.
“She would have been an excellent nurse,” Frye said. “She was someone who would have been nominated for one of these awards and would have had more potential than any other nominee to win. She was very hard working and passionate and just a good personal altogether.”
Frye estimated there were about 140 nominees in various categories at the Nursing Excellence Awards.
Jace Frye, an alumnus of The University of New Mexico-Gallup, poses for a photo with his wife Tannia Rivera during the New Mexico Nursing Excellence Awards ceremony April 15, 2023, at the Sandia Resort and Casino.
His former managers at Christus St. Vincent — Carlota Bie-santos and Dominick Armijo — nominated him for the Emerging Nurse Leader category for his work as a nursing unit supervisor.
“Their big reason for nominating me was particularly how good my leadership and supervision and staff support had been in the progressive unit,” Frye said.
Frye worked at Christus St. Vincent for 9 ½ years until February 2023 when he resigned. He then took a job as a corrections nurse with the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe.
He said his new job as a corrections nurse is vastly different from his old job with more focus on the security and safety of staff. However, there is also less stress when it comes to patients experiencing critical situations.
“There’s definitely a different kind of culture and mentality of nurses within corrections,” he said. “I have been kind of adjusting my personality to sort of embrace that. … The physical demand of the job isn’t nearly as intense as it is in the hospital setting for me personally.”
Frye was born and raised in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in biology from the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. He said he was shopping around for nursing schools after that, but he kept getting wait-listed or declined.
He had a family friend who was doing an interim nurse education position at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital in Gallup at the time, and she recommended the UNM-Gallup Nursing Program.
“One of the selling points was that I likely would not be wait-listed,” he said. “I just needed to pass the entrance exams. Throughout my life as a kid, I was curious about the Southwest, and I think I kind of unconsciously was waiting for the opportunity to leave the East Coast and move out West.”
Frye applied to UNM-Gallup in the summer of 2009, passed the entrance exam and started the program in the fall of 2009. Frye acknowledged that the program was difficult, but he said it prepared him for the challenge of the nursing profession.
“I always felt like at UNM-Gallup, they took their program very seriously,” he said. “They weren’t cutting anybody any slack, and they were constantly reminding us that the hard work we were putting in, as well as the challenges we were facing in nursing school, were part of our career. They were preparing us for our career.”
Frye also acknowledged that he did not graduate “on time.” He had to re-take a couple classes and re-take the National Council Licensure Examination preparation exam.
“Whatever extra time I had to put in, either because I failed or didn’t complete something, it just further reinforced more important things I needed to know,” he said.
He encouraged current and future nursing students to not be afraid of failure.
“You will have the opportunity to gain that knowledge and learn those things, but be prepared to work hard,” he said.
Frye graduated with his Associate of Science in nursing from UNM-Gallup in December 2011. He stayed in Gallup for a year and a half after that, working at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital.
He then earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“I think my clinical experience during my time at UNM-Gallup was exceptional,” Frye said. “It was a major foundation for my career as a nurse. … Nobody should under-rate the UNM-Gallup Nursing Program.”
To learn more about the UNM-Gallup Nursing Program, please visit https://www.gallup.unm.edu/nursing/index.html.
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