Nurses and Care Workers Honored during National Nurses Week

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By edhat staff

Local agencies are commemorating National Nurses Week for all the workers who give care.

At Tuesday's Board of Supervisor's meeting, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department honored nurses with Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart presenting a resolution.

National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s, birthday. Florence Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing and would have celebrated her 200th birthday anniversary last year.

This year, the American Nurses Association and the World Health Organization extended the “Year of the Nurse” to 2021 to highlight the many contributions nurses have made toward combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Health Department nurses have served on the frontlines in community clinics and providing critical interventions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

“Nurses have been at the center of public health response to this pandemic. Their tireless efforts to protect every member of our community and care for those most impacted by COVID-19 have been key to getting us where we are now, nearing the end of this pandemic,” said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, County Public Health Director. “We thank all nurses for their unwavering dedication. You are our heroes.”

Public Health Department nurse administering COVID-19 vaccine at a community clinic (courtesy photo)

CenCal Health is also taking the opportunity to publicly recognize all workers who improve the lives of others through “giving care.” They employ over 60 people including experienced nurses, licensed social workers and dedicated case managers.

CenCal Health highlighted three employees to honor this week: 

Laci Crouch is a former hospital emergency room nurse with a Texas accent. After 15 years of nursing in her home state, Crouch moved to California and went to work for CenCal Health which was just starting a specialized pediatric unit to support Medi-Cal members who are also eligible for California Children’s Services (CCS). These special health services are for children and teens who have chronic medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, cancer, and traumatic injuries. As a Health Plan Nurse Coordinator, Crouch is a senior member of the team that manages the treatments and care of these vulnerable children. “Every day and many times a day, I get to help children and families improve their lives,” said Crouch. “It might be approving a request for a wheel chair repair for a young boy. That might not seem like a big deal to most people but for a low-income family – whose fragile child has grown too big to pick up and carry – a functioning wheel chair means the world.”

CenCal Health employee Rose Vazquez, LCSW serves members in the Pediatric Case Management department. As a pediatrics social worker, Vazquez provides “psycho-social” support to at-risk children who require highly complex medical services, often including physical and occupational therapy. Frequently, these children are in families that have no or low income so they also need to access vital resources such as housing and food. “One family I worked with was struggling with transportation to medical appointments, and the child member needed an important follow-up appointment after a recent surgery,” recounted Vazquez about the single-parent family who was also struggling with homelessness. Vazquez moved quickly to connect the family to a social service agency that could help with transportation. “Over the phone I assisted this overwhelmed parent, simultaneously using my computer to fill out her application for a gas card, and submitting it just in time so that the family could drive a friend’s car to see that physician.” 

Growing up in a family that also needed social service programs, Vazquez has, in her words, “been doing this work my whole life.” As a young child, she was the interpreter between her Spanish-speaking mother and the social workers and agency employees that aided her family in need. This experience led Vazquez – with her obvious resilience and caring heart – to go on to college at UCSB and graduate school at USC, successfully achieving her career goal of becoming a licensed clinical social worker. 

Both Crouch and Vazquez emphasized the importance of “the team” at CenCal Health. They each mentioned the admirable work of the “CSAs” or Clinical Support Associates, who assist with member health management. For the past six years, Angelica Laurel-Castro has served as a CSA at the health plan. When she describes her day-to-day job responsibilities, it appears she is a combination of detective and educator. Tracking down medical records for a patient who recently moved from another county and had mixed up her medications, or finding local services that will help a member and their family with food scarcity, are just two examples. “I love my job because I love helping people,” said Laurel-Castro. “Maybe because I had a mother who always helped others in our neighborhood – early on I followed her lead.” Before coming to CenCal Health, Laurel-Castro worked 20 years in public health for Santa Barbara County.  

Laurel-Castro summed it up, “to have a member patient call you ‘an angel’, to feel the gratitude of a lonely senior after you’ve taken extra time to schedule their medical appointments, to be able to give individualized attention to someone in need – that is the greatest reward of a care career.”

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