Award-winning UW Bothell BSN grad recognized

Stefan Torres / Marc Studer photo

By Douglas Esser
An award-winning University of Washington Bothell graduate was recognized during the UW School of Nursing’s centennial as one of 100 influencers — nurses with ties to the UW, who have demonstrated an undaunted commitment to improving the lives of others.

Stefan Torres became an RN in 2012 and received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UW Bothell in 2014. While working at the Swedish Medical Center – Edmonds Campus, Torres has built a following on Facebook and YouTube with his entertaining videos on nursing and health topics.

When the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a national contest last spring for a video to inspire other nurses and build culture of health, it clicked with Torres. “That’s what I do.”

His entry won first place, and he was featured in a video about his work as a nurse.

Encouraged by his impact, Torres is focusing on video production while working part time.

“My main goal is to grow my audience, to gain as many people’s attention as I can, to be able to talk to them, to teach,” Torres said.

Torres said one of the UW Bothell classes he liked the least at the time turned out to be extremely helpful in producing videos because it taught him critical thinking. He analyzes research studies for his videos, asking, How was it done? Who sponsored it? What was the sample size? Is it valid?

“For me that’s extremely important when I’m doling out information to the masses,” Torres said.

Another memorable class in environmental studies looked at issues such as how the meat industry affects the planet. It widened his view of health beyond hospitals. “The class really drove it home,” Torres said.

Torres received his RN at North Seattle College and followed that with the BSN at UW Bothell. He worked as a nurse at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and as a nurse in Hawaii and volunteered in Peru before deciding to return to the Edmonds-Shoreline area where he grew up. He’s a certified emergency room nurse and loves the variety of cases and patient interactions in the ER. He also has worked as a “float” on various floors and specialties at Swedish-Edmonds and now helps patients coming out of anesthesia after surgery.

“When I clock in, it’s like vacation for me, because I love patient care. I love the people I work with,” he said.

A little over a year ago, Torres taught himself how to produce videos and shared a couple of them on anxiety and self-help with Facebook friends. They saw his energy and charisma and encouraged him to produce more. Now, he has posted more than two dozen videos in two channels: Nurse Weekly for nurses and Nurse Stefan for public health. They’ve had more than 400,000 views on Facebook, and the most popular one on breast-feeding has had 230,000 views. For October, Torres produced a video on a self-breast exam for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Torres takes an entertaining approach. “I think my humor strikes a chord with people in their 20s and 30s who grew up with me. I try to touch on things I know they’re feeling and make jokes.”

Making people laugh is a way engage them in a message they might reject if presented in the form of a lecture or lesson. “I know how nurses are. I know how real people are, from being in the ER,” he said.

Underlying it all is his desire to help other nurses and promote a culture of health.

“There are a lot of simple things people could be doing,” Torres said. “My goal — because everyone’s on social media — is to get to those people and say, Hey, stop eating that or smoking that — that kind of thing.”

With his growing recognition and success, Torres has heard others say he could become a health celebrity like Dr. Oz. But Torres says what he values most is feedback from people like the boy with diabetes who showed a Nurse Stefan video to his family so they could understand the disease. Another girl messaged Nurse Stefan she was on the verge of committing suicide, watched his suicide prevention video and is no longer feeling suicidal.

“I can’t not do this,” Torres said. “I believe that people are recognizing I’m on the right path as to where health education is going. Right now, if I keep doing what I’m doing, things will go far.”

Torres said becoming an RN and ”combining that with UW Bothell was exactly what I needed,” and it could be a good option for others.

“Knowing that UW Bothell is there could be something that changes their life, kind of the way it changed mine.”

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