Mentoring and Professional Development Specialist for Citrus Valley Health Partners in Covina, California, Ofelia’s primary role is to mentor new graduate nurses, internationally trained nurses and reentry nurses. These nurses are the recipients of the rich experience that Ofelia has gathered working in diverse settings around the world. They are also fortunate to be learning from a nursing professional who values compassion and who wants to make their journey easier. Along with two partners, Ofelia administers an RN Nurse Residency Program.
Ofelia has been in this position since 2005. In addition to running the RN Residency Program, she is also the system administrator for the Elsevier Learning Management System, an electronic educational resource for the health system’s nursing professionals. Citrus Valley Health Partners rolled out the online learning system late last year. Ofelia was a driving force behind the rollout.
“Before we started using the online modality for our learning modules, we had to manually file all of the records, and tracking them was difficult,” Ofelia says. Recordkeeping now is much easier, as she states: “We can pull up any record quickly. We know exactly those nurses who have completed their modules and those that have not.”
An Early Fascination with Nursing
As a young child, Ofelia was fascinated by nursing. Her aunt was a nurse. Ofelia remembers being interested in how her aunt helped people. When she was old enough, Ofelia entered nursing school in her native Philippines, training at a Catholic university. The learning environment stressed compassion, which resonated with her. After graduating, she took the board exams and began her nursing career at the Philippine Heart Center.
Opportunities for advancement in the Philippines were not plentiful. Looking to establish a better living for her family, Ofelia agreed to work in Saudi Arabia as an ICU staff nurse. She had to leave her husband and 8-month-old son behind, but she used the leave that she earned each year to return to them. Although it was difficult, she learned a lot by working closely with the physicians. During the course of her contract, she was promoted to a supervisory position. When her contract expired in 1990, she returned to the Philippines just before the Gulf War began.
After working as a clinical instructor for a year in the Philippines, Ofelia ventured abroad again, this time coming to the U.S. Her family followed a few years later. She was hired by the Methodist Medical Center in Jacksonville, Fla., to work in the surgical ICU. Five years later, she moved to the Mayo Clinic, also in Jacksonville, Fla., to work in a diagnostic cardiology unit. “Working at the Mayo Clinic opened my eyes to how important it is to keep up with the flow of new information,” Ofelia says. She also learned the importance of asking questions, something she emphasizes to new nurses. “One thing that will bar you from giving the best care to your patients is when you don’t ask questions,” she says. “I learned that there are no wrong questions when it comes to taking care of a patient.”
Her next move was to join Citrus Valley Health Partners as a telemetry nurse in 2003 – she became the MAP specialist two years later. In 2012, she completed a master’s degree in nursing.
During her career transitions in the Philippines and in the Middle East, Ofelia had no preceptors or RN residency programs to help her. “I had to find ways to learn by buddying up or by bringing my nursing books to work for reference,” she recalls. When she came to the U.S., the transition was less stressful because preceptors were available, and she appreciated their support. When she had the opportunity to join the Education Department at Citrus Valley, she readily agreed because she believed it was an opportunity to help other nurses in transition. “I thought that this would be the best way to ‘pay it forward’ and share my experience as a nurse,” she says.
In recognition of the excellent work that she does, Ofelia has been named The Connector. According to Mosby’s Superheros of Nursing award criteria, The Connector is the one nurse who bridges the gaps between care teams, technology, policies, and education. “This is the essence of my job,” she says. “Being a system administrator puts me in a position to connect everyone to learning opportunities as well as to facilitate interactions among the staff.”
Ofelia was nominated by her director, Lourdes Salandanan, the director of education. Their relationship is one of mutual respect. “She is an awesome woman and I really look up to her,” she says. Lourdes recognized the work that Ofelia had done to launch the online learning management system and how it had made Citrus Valley’s nurse education significantly more efficient. In the nomination, Lourdes wrote: “Ofelia is an excellent communicator and facilitates knowledge exchange among nurses at all levels . She is full of positive energy and enthusiasm, which draws many new and incumbent leaders to her. She makes herself readily available and accessible to all staff members, thus reducing the anxiety and confusion that may easily occur when completing study modules.”
When Ofelia learned that she had won, she was surprised. Her surprise soon turned to gratitude. “It made me feel really appreciated,” she says. “The recognition was overwhelming.” No doubt the nurses that she’s helped are grateful, too.