Meet Azucena (Susy) Villalobos, BSN, a nurse in the surgical intensive care unit (SICU), a master’s student at Penn Nursing, and the president-elect of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) Philadelphia chapter.
Can you share a time when your cultural background helped to bridge a connection with a patient?
When I was a nursing student at Penn and working in the HUP ICU, we had a very sick patient and his wife come in through the Emergency Department. Despite the team’s best efforts, the patient passed away. His wife was in the family waiting room, and she was expectedly devastated. She was Spanish-speaking only and at that moment I was the only person on the unit who spoke Spanish. I was able to not only translate on behalf of the chaplain and some of the other staff, but I also had a moment to sit and simply be there with her. That moment has always stayed with me.
When and why did you first get involved with the NAHN local chapter?
While completing the accelerated BSN program at Penn Nursing, I had the opportunity to work on research with Associate Professor of Nursing Adriana Perez, PhD, CRNP, who became one of my dear mentors. She let me know about NAHN. I was inspired by the wide breadth of work that these Latinx nurses were doing for their communities. NAHN has been performing preventive care for many years, advocating for the well-being of the Latinx community, and providing health education and resources.
What advice would you give to nurses when it comes to applying cultural humility and caring for Latinx patients?
Approach your patients and their families with an open mind and be ready to try to truly understand their needs and values. My grandmother spent many years chronically ill, was in and out of doctor’s appointments, and even when there was a language barrier, the one thing she always noted was when the provider would take the time to actually sit with her and actively listen to her concerns. I think we all just want to be heard and understood.
You were selected as a fellow of the Leonard A. Lauder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Program at Penn Nursing for the 2022 cohort. What does that entail?
The Lauder Fellowship aims to recruit more nurses to enter primary care and community health as nurse practitioners. The program selects from MSN students enrolled in Penn Nursing’s primary care nurse practitioner programs and provides full tuition support, learning opportunities, and training in community-based care via community partner sites. After graduation, we will be practicing in underserved communities for at least two years.