Spotlight on Latinx Achievement: Wendy Rivera

Tell us a little bit about yourself / background, short bio, and what makes you proud of being a Minnesotan?

I came from Coahuila Mexico to Minnesota at the age of 14 years old. I moved to St. James which is a close-knit community located just 38 miles from Mankato.  I was very happy to live in St James since there were many other Latinos in the community and I did not speak any English. In a matter of one year, I was able to speak English thanks to the amazing ESL teachers. I finished High School and I continued my education at a Community College in Albert Lea, MN, and earned my Associate of Science in Nursing.  I am now the Nurse Manager at Thorne Crest Senior Living in Albert Lea. Since I work in the healthcare industry, I am proud Minnesota has one of the best hospitals in the world. This beautiful state also offers many opportunities to grow professionally.

What are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities you are facing during this pandemic in your role?

During this pandemic we have faced many challenges to keep our elders safe from COVID-19, from shortages of personal protective equipment, short staffing, working long hours, and the constant change of regulations, policies, and procedures as new information is released from the MDH & CDC. 

However, challenging times also offer a great opportunity to help people. Our residents have been isolated family visits have been restricted so I try to visit them and bring a smile to their face even if they cannot see mine under my mask. I never thought my first year as an RN would be during a worldwide pandemic but, it has given me the opportunity to grow enormously as a nurse and to be more madly in love with my profession.

There’s a huge disparity for our Latinx community in Minnesota, why do you believe we need more Latinxs in your profession?

We currently face a shortage of nurses and you don’t see many Latinos in the healthcare field. We need the immediate need for more Hispanic talent in the medical community. I think we need to increase the diversity in the healthcare industry to help our Latino community better and meet their medical needs. Latino patients need nurses who speak their language and have a cultural connection to elevate trust and better experience of care.

What strategies have you put in place to deal with the psychosocial needs of both patients and staff? How do you deal with self-care?

As the nurse manager, I meet with my staff daily. I actively listen to them and ask how they are doing and I support them. My office is always open to them and I try to be available to help when they need assistance. I encourage and stress the importance of physical, mental, and emotional health to my staff in order to care for others. I also make sure they take breaks from all of the hard work they do. Our elders have been through a lot during this pandemic, they have expressed their frustration with all of the restrictions and changes since COVID-19 started. I have seen them depressed, and anxious due to this. I listen, hold their hands, and ensure them that everything we are doing is to keep them safe.  We have a wonderful team that works very hard to meet their psychosocial needs from activities personnel, dietary, minister, nurses, physicians, social workers, and aides. I have created a work-life balance, when I am at home I try to focus on my family and decompress from work. I go kayaking with my husband and kids and enjoying nature helps me meditate which lowers my stress and helps me relax as I also engage in physical activity.

Why do you think the work of LatinoLEAD is important for our community now?

LatinoLEAD is important to our community because it unites all of the Latinos and encourages them to work together. They raise knowledge on issues Latinos are facing in Minnesota, and help finds solutions. Our community needed to be more united and LatinoLEAD has helped to make this happen.