This is me. A new grad Registered Nurse. Working in my dream unit straight out of school. I had the privilege of serving patients and families in the Medical ICU (MICU), at one of that nation’s top academic medical centers. My mom, who is also a nurse, sent me this picture a few days back. It brought back a flood of memories and reminded me of the values ingrained in me as a nurse.
Nursing is considered the most trusted profession in the country. This is not a surprise to me. Nurses are on the frontlines of everything that goes on with a patient and their family. They process information from doctors, pharmacists, and therapists in a mission to ensure each person leaves the hospital fully recovered. You have to pour yourself into your patient and know everything about them. Those tidbits of information can literally be the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, your best efforts will fall short sometimes and you will lose a patient. I know I did. During my time in this ICU, we had a 30% mortality rate. We took care of the sickest of the sick. Most patients required quaternary care and we were often their last resort.
Fast forward years later and I went on to work among the administrative ranks, my highest position attained being an Enterprise Director. I learned a lot during my career in healthcare but nothing shaped me more than my time at the bedside. I learned compassion. Often times, I was dealing with people at the most vulnerable time in their lives. I learned toughness. There is no time to get in your feelings when someone’s life literally depends on your ability to stay locked in. No time for crying, although I did after a handful of taxing shifts. Lastly, I learned the value of TEAM. I played sports growing up and I can confidently say that I’ll take my day-shift nursing crew 10/10 times if I had to pick a team to ride with. We brought our collective talents and geniuses together for the sole purpose of caring for patients and trying to save lives.
I bring a lot of these values forward as I foray into entrepreneurship. I often refer to the Nursing Process, when devising ways in which OjaExpress can better serve families. One aspect of health is food. At the outset, I knew that access to food was a major determinant of health. Many people from various ethnic backgrounds don’t have access to the foods they are familiar with when they come to the USA. So what happens? They resort to fast foods or poor quality substitutes that have negative health outcomes down the road. I wanted to create a culturally competent company (another nursing value- culturally competent care) that respects the unique faucets of people and celebrates them. So in many ways, my foray into entrepreneurship is an extension of my initial calling to healthcare. People have asked me if I ever want to go back to nursing/healthcare. I often respond by saying, “I am caring for families, by ensuring they have access to their cultural food, regardless of their zip code.”
These are trying times in our nation. We have nurses and doctors risking their lives to battle a virus that none of us have ever seen. I want to salute you for your sacrifice and selflessness. I worked side by side with you all when I started my career. Now the nation sees the valor and honor that I knew existed within such a venerated profession. It is my aim to carry forward the lessons learned as a nurse to build an empathetic, culturally competent company that is thoughtfully addressing food access for communities that are often overlooked. Thank you to the Nursing profession; you made me!