Written by: Leyna Gomez, Yesenia Japa, Andrea Lopez, and Kacthary Sanclemente
From July 18-20, 2012 we had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) Conference, entitled “Healthcare Reform: Mentoring the Next Generation of Nursing Leaders” in San Juan, Puerto Rico. NAHN was founded in 1975 and for the past thirty-seven years it has dedicated itself to the improvement of quality health among Hispanic communities and promoting leadership opportunities for Hispanic nurses. One of the big goals of NAHN is ensuring that the Hispanic community is well cared for in a manner that promotes cultural sensitivity along with patient safety. Many amazing nurses and a few social workers from diverse backgrounds attended the conference to identify and explore areas where future Hispanic nursing leaders can influence healthcare reform. The three days were filled with speakers, workshops, and exhibitions. Each of us received great advice and we would like to share it with you.
Being a Leader
Dr. Norma Martínez Rogers, UT Health Science Center San Antonio nursing faculty member and CSON Diversity Advisory Board member, talked about how experience, education, and reflection (which she called self-study) all make a good leader. She then added that we have to recognize no one is perfect. Even those nurses whom we admire have made mistakes. Gaining awareness of flaws and mistakes and reflecting on ways to improve them has been crucial to leaders.
Dr. Norma Martínez Rogers referred to us, students, as being sculptors of our careers. Hard work, commitment, internal drive, and self-initiative will prepare us for demanding clinical roles.
One of the key takeaway points from the speech given by Dr. Josefina Lujan, associate professor and regional dean of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing, was that differences should not hold back leaders. Instead, they should make a team stronger. The variety of strengths team members possess should be seen as an advantage to serve the diverse needs of the community. Acknowledging and appreciating differences are important steps to create a safe and welcoming working environment for all.
Finding Mentors and Mentoring
Dr. Norma Martínez Rogers explained that “You need someone who you respect and trust. It does not have to be someone with a PhD…it has to be someone who will hold you to your vision.” Most importantly, one must have a vision and not a fantasy.
– Yesenia & Kacthary
One of the best pieces of advice that Dr. Norma Martínez Rogers left us with was that once one makes it, it is our responsibility to bring someone else with us because it is our duty to teach others to be leaders.
Through her involvement in NAHN, Angie Millan, president of the organization, was able to encounter people she would never have encountered without her involvement in the association. “I look good because I’ve been around greatness,” Millan said as she encouraged the audience to strive for excellence, a saying that struck my view on leadership.
Gina Miranda-Díaz is a great leader and asset to the Hispanic community. Her efforts in reducing breast cancer disparities among Latina women cannot go unrecognized. She is the only Latina health officer in the state of New Jersey and has done a tremendous amount of work to increase the survival rates of Hispanic women through early diagnosis of breast cancer. One of her most generous actions was using a $5,000 grant to provide free mammograms to Latina women with no insurance and who are undocumented. Miranda-Díaz is a true inspiration and nurse to follow.
Eva Gómez, a staff development specialist of Boston’s Children’s Hospital and member of CSON Diversity Advisory Board, has dedicated her time to the American Heart Association after being diagnosed with heart disease. She is a spokeswoman for the “Go Red Por Tu Corazón” campaign, which aims at promoting awareness of heart disease in the Latino community as it is the number one leading cause of death in Latina women. Her work has motivated me, as a Latina woman and nursing student, to advocate for my community in the efforts to reduce the risk of preventable diseases.
Overall Thoughts from the Conference
My attendance in this convention has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of what being a Hispanic in nursing is all about. It has allowed me to see healthcare diversity in action as I interact with nurses from different backgrounds and ethnicities and witness again and again the value of their differences in the work they do. I was exposed to an environment in which I listened actively to what was going on and was willing to soak up as much learning as possible. Through programs like KILN I am finding myself in places where I never imagined I would be, making this NAHN conference another life-changing experience.
One of the aspects that I enjoyed the most about this particular conference was the sense of family unity between everyone who attended. They were all tremendously welcoming and easy to talk to, which made this conference not as frightening. Being the first conference I attend, I can say that I was without a doubt inspired to become a leader within my community and nursing profession.