Emily Ramirez is an LPN with her Associates in practical nursing from Green River College. Attending school from 2018-2019, Emily started working in family practice for Kaiser Permanente soon after graduation.
WCN: How did you choose nursing as a career?
Emily Ramirez: Nursing is something I’ve always been passionate about and always wanted to do. When I was younger, my grandpa was on hospice for some time and his nurse was super kind to me and warmly engaged with my parents. After he passed, she actually bought me my first little nurse’s kit. From there, my parents have said that nursing is all I have ever wanted to do.
As I got older, I certainly changed as a person, and so there were times when I thought about doing something different. But after volunteering at Mary Bridge for a short time, and witnessing how phenomenal the nurses working with the children there were, I determined that nursing is what I would do.
WCN: What are some challenges you have had in becoming a nurse?
Emily Ramirez: I have a very supportive family. They have always said finish school, and that’s what you worry about. I worked few part-time jobs while in school, which was challenging, but I was never afraid to ask for help. Especially with some courses, as you get further into the year, so much is layered on top of everything else, it can be strenuous. But I had great professors at Green River, like Dr. LaValley, and if I put in the effort to ask for help, she would never say no.
You do have to meet a criteria GPA to stay in the program, which can be difficult at times, but don’t give up! Give yourself a little grace when things aren’t going well–don’t be too hard on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect. I understand that you are caring for someone’s loved one, and of course, do your best, but be kind to yourself. And be sure to take that time for yourself when you have it because those courses are heavy.
WCN: What do you enjoy most about being a nurse?
Emily Ramirez: I love the people I meet. And I love being in family practice because I get to see the two-to-three-day-old baby and the 90-year old who you know has seen so much in their lifetime. Most patients are so grateful you are there and appreciative that you are taking care of them, especially now with COVID. I enjoy meeting the people behind the medical record number and looking at them as a whole person. You make these great connections with people and especially with the kids. You see them when they are only two days old, then before you know it, they are a year old and know who you are. Even the older people who come in for weekly medications we might have to inject, or something like that, they get to know you too. You get to establish a relationship with them, and that is awesome! It’s fulfilling, and I find it rewarding.
I don’t think I would want to do anything else. Some patients we see are just in for a routine check-up, and another one may have just spent a month in the hospital, and we are following up. It takes a lot of critical thinking, which I also enjoy. I love what I do. In my opinion, it is a great job!
WCN: What has your experience been as a new nurse during the pandemic?
Emily Ramirez: I’m very grateful for those nurses working in ICU care. I think family practice is a little safer, and I appreciate that. But still, my first year was insane. I think it was beneficial to be new to nursing this year. When you are new, you go with the flow; you are more adaptable. There have been so many changes in my practice environment, things were moved or added, and when you’re so brand new that you don’t know what it used to be like, you’re like okay, this is fine. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed all the changes. Some things have worked for the better, and some things haven’t. We work with the doctors and other staff to let them know when something isn’t working for us, and together, we figure out how to make it better. And luckily, I have management that is willing to listen and advocate for us. That is the positive.
The negative is, I miss seeing the volume of patients that I used to because they might be scared to come in. And of course, they are, but then inadvertently, they might get very sick. Unfortunately, I had a couple of patients I used to see regularly but whom I hadn’t seen for a while pass. That has been hard. There was also a time when my clinic was closed altogether, and I didn’t have my regular patients anymore. Instead, I was traveling to other clinics to see other people’s patients. That has been the most difficult part for me, not interacting with as many patients and helping them.
WCN: Why do you think diversity and representation are important in the nursing workforce?
Emily Ramirez: It’s important for the patients. Diverse patients, from what I’ve seen and experienced, are more honest and willing to let representative nurses or care providers know when they may or may not want to do something. Your job as a nurse is to be an advocate. There are cultural divides. Growing up in a family that spoke only Spanish at home, I grew up different than most of my peers. When patients don’t know how to express themselves clearly or tell the doctors when they don’t agree with something in their care plan, a representative nurse might have the cultural sensitivity to better facilitate those conversations. I’m grateful that I’m bilingual. I can get through to my Spanish-speaking patients and get information from them that maybe they didn’t tell the doctor because there’s just that language barrier. It’s so important to have representation in nursing from all walks of life, all cultures, all ethnicities because you are less likely to miss something that way. It helps to establish rapport, so patients feel more comfortable and better-taken care of.
WCN: What are your future career goals in nursing?
Emily Ramirez: I love my job and what I do, but I want to go back for my bachelor’s degree. To take some positive steps forward, I have been taking some pre-recs, as many as I could during COVID. I would love to work inpatient in pediatrics. And that has changed for me because I love children in general, but when we did our clinical rotations in pediatrics, it was difficult seeing those sick children. Really difficult! But one of the pediatricians there encouraged me that if that is where my passion is, I need to go for it. So, I plan on staying with KP for a while and working towards my bachelor’s.
KP also has assistance for students, such as tuition reimbursement, and my boss is flexible with my schedule to help accommodate my school schedule. I was upfront when I started with KP that I wanted to go back for my RN, and they have been very supportive of it.
And eventually, I think I would love to be able to teach. I would love to see those new faces and see that spectrum grow, see diversity grow. Being able to teach new nurses from so many walks of life would be phenomenal.
WCN: Given your experience so far, what advice do you have for those considering a career in nursing?
Emily Ramirez: I think some people might look at it like you are never going to be out of a job, and that’s true, but I think you should also take some time and volunteer and think about that person you’re going to be for the families. You are going to be that advocate, that support system, and if you want to do it, don’t let anything stand in your way. It is a very rewarding job, and there are scholarships out there to help people. I worked several odd jobs to help pay for my college, and nursing is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.