Worker Goes from 20-year Hospital Housekeeper to RN

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By E’Louise Ondash, RN, contributor

Jesus Velazquez, RN, knows what it means to chase a dream to its real conclusion.

A Mexican immigrant who came to the United States almost four decades ago, Velazquez worked as a housekeeper at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles for 20 years before becoming a registered nurse. He began working on the floors, and was transferred to the operating room.

“When I was cleaning the rooms, I would see the nurses in the OR when they came in for the trauma cases – how they would quickly establish the patients hemodynamically,” he explained. “It fascinated me. It’s amazing how these people work together for one goal. I thought, ‘This is a job I would like to do and I think I have the aptitude.’”

It took more than aptitude, though. Once Velazquez enrolled in the nursing program at East Los Angeles College, his days were long and full.

“I went to school during the day and was able to work evenings at the hospital as a housekeeper and for the parks and recreation department on weekends,” Velazquez said. “They let me bring my books with me and I could study when I wasn’t busy. I studied on my breaks at the hospital, on my lunch hour and at home. I slept only four hours a night.”

Velasquez graduated from East Los Angeles College in 1990 with an associate degree in nursing. Today he is a member of the cardiac surgical team at White Memorial.

“Jesse is a remarkable person,” said Randy Sadd, Director of Surgical Services at White Memorial. “He has raised himself to the highest level in surgical nursing over his career. He's a talented open-heart nurse with excellent skills, and brings an unusually tender touch to nursing. He's both compassionate and caring. He brings out the best in his colleagues by example. He is loved and respected by all. He is a true hero—a true gift to humanity and our White Memorial family."

After 17 years, Velazquez is still clearly and dearly dedicated to his job – and is still enthusiastic about his work.

“Sometimes I work 18 hours a day, bit I still love it,” he said.

Velazquez’ son, the father of two, may follow in his father’s footsteps. Currently, the 28-year-old is an anesthesia technician at White Memorial.

“He looks up to me as an example,” Velazquez said. “He’s studying to be a nurse. He’s getting his requirements (for the nursing program) now.”

What advice does Velazquez have for others who are considering goals that seem unattainable?

“I want people from all races and creeds to believe in themselves,” he said “There are roadblocks, but I would say don’t give up. Continue to study hard and get a family member to support you any way they can. In the end, you’ll get your reward. You’ll eventually succeed.”

Velazquez credits co-workers, his wife, Teresa, and his sister, who encouraged him to come to the United States, for the support he needed to become a registered nurse. He has been honored officially for his accomplishments.

In May, White Memorial awarded him the hospital’s Hero Award for his leadership, and last year, the hospital gave Velazquez its Nursing Excellence Award. Eight years ago, television station KCET in Los Angeles named Velazquez “Latino Local Hero of the Year” for “his unwillingness to give up and his inspiration to others.”

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