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RN’s Leadership Earns Ebola Care Recognition

Rena Perez, RN, is honored for her leadership and patient advocacy during the Ebola crisis.

Rena Perez is a patient advocate, who balances being logical and detail-oriented with the softer side of nursing: compassion, vulnerability, and warmth. She was instrumental in directing the team that developed the Ebola patient workflow for Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento. Perez also works on multiple projects to drive high-quality patient care in her intensive care unit, and this year, she achieved her Critical Care Registered Nurse certification through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

Perez was one of two Northern California employees who recently earned a Kaiser Permanente Extraordinary Nurse Award. Read on to learn about her nursing journey.

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse?

I knew I wanted to become a nurse when my dad was hospitalized in the intensive care unit. I was working on my undergraduate degree at the time with an emphasis on pre-med. As I spent hours sitting at my father’s bedside, I couldn’t help noticing how well the nurses took care of him—they were amazing! I knew from then that this was the route I needed to take. I completed my nursing prerequisites, and was accepted to Samuel Merritt University’s accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program within the year of my father’s passing.

What do you love about being a nurse?

There are many things. I love the balance of science and human nature, the technical practice, and the raw emotion. I feel a certain type of honor and privilege to be able to care for people in their most vulnerable state, whether they are the patient or the loved one of a patient. It is also quite humbling being a nurse as it puts many aspects of life into perspective. I often find myself letting go of the trivial things and feeling especially fortunate for all that I have.

Nursing is a demanding job. What keeps you going?

At South Sacramento, we have an amazing team. Most of us have been there for many years and this allows us to feel and act as a family. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and operate like a beautifully composed dance.

What has being a nurse taught you, personally and professionally?

Cherish the moments — with my husband, baby bump (yes, first-time mom here), family, friends, and myself. Life is beautiful, fragile, and short. Enjoy it while you can! Professionally, being a nurse has taught me that nurses have an extremely difficult job. Many aspects of being a nurse cannot be taught; they are innate. There’s a wonderful balance of the professional nurse who knows all of the technical skills of the job but can perform and deliver it in a way that exudes confidence, compassion, caring, and passion.

Tell us about a project you’ve led and of which you’re very proud.

Of most recent note, I took on the challenge of leading our Ebola preparedness efforts after senior leadership decided to designate South Sacramento Medical Center as one of Kaiser Permanente’s Ebola treatment centers. I am very proud of this project: I sat in on many meetings, read through many protocols, and trained at many skills days to be able to successfully demonstrate meeting — and even exceeding — policies and standards internally and externally. We were named one of President Obama’s national Ebola treatment centers in November 2014.

Read about the region’s other award winner, Mary Wright, RN.