by Lisa Countryman
In honor of National Nurses Week, I began a series of profiles of our Clinic nurses. This week I spoke with Karen Mejia, who has been a nurse at St. Anthony Medical Clinic for two years. For Karen, addressing health disparities was at the heart of her decision to become a nurse.
What drew you to nursing?
“Originally I wanted to be a mid-wife, but when I was at San Francisco State I took a couple of La Raza classes and Women’s Health classes, and I actually took a class on the health disparities of Latinos in the U.S. That class made me realize there was so much to do in nursing. But I think it’s really hard to mention only one thing that drew me into nursing, the main thing is that nursing is a profession where you can be compassionate and caring toward patients. Being people-centered, that’s something that drew me into nursing. Even when I was thinking of becoming a mid-wife, already I envisioned myself at General working with people that are in need. So when I interviewed here at St. Anthony’s and I read the mission statement, I felt like it was a perfect match for me.
I am the youngest with three older sisters; I didn’t get to experience the things my older sisters did, but coming to this country from Guatemala and having no health insurance… these are things that I luckily wasn’t able to experience but that my sisters told me about. So I already knew that there were disparities out there because of what my family had experienced. I knew that I never wanted to forget the struggles that my family went through. That was my whole idea: to treat others the way I wanted to be treated. I kept thinking that as a nurse I could treat patients the way that my parents or my sisters should have been treated, especially in terms of health care.”
What do you like about working with the patients at St. Anthony Medical Clinic?
“Just being able to provide as much health and prevention education as we do. Here at St. Anthony’s we really focus on trying to give a lot of information to patients so that later on they won’t have so many complications in their diabetes or their asthma or their hypertension. So that approach definitely makes me feel like I am at home.
For example, yesterday at our Inspiramos class I had such a joy teaching the parents and children how to eat healthy. Seeing the response, like how engaged they were in the class. That’s what I love about St. Anthony’s; that I can see we do so much for our patients.”
When you come to work, what kind of impact do you hope to have on patients?
“I want patients to be able to see me as someone they feel connected to. When they walk out of this Clinic I want them to feel that someone actually paid attention to them, actually cared for them. I want to make sure that I make the sort of difference with patients, that they leave here knowing a lot about their health, that they feel empowered and have some sort of control over their disease.
Yesterday one of the parents at the Inspiramos class came up to me and thanked me for what we were doing. That brought so much joy to me to realize that here we are, putting together a class and you never know if it’s making a difference but when someone reaches out and tells you that, then you know that you are making a difference. You’re doing something for them. And that’s my biggest goal: for our patients to feel that we are doing something for them.”