Meet Public Health Nurse: Jacqueline Gaeta

Meet Public Health Nurse: Jacqueline Gaeta

Hola, mi nombre es Jacqueline Gaeta. I am a Mexican-American registered nurse living in Southern California. I recently graduated with my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing this spring, from Cal State Dominguez Hills and have applied to get my Public Health Nurse Certification. 

My parents were born and raised on a very small ranch in Jalisco, Mexico. As a middle child, I learned Spanish and English at the same time and am fluent in both. However, as the middle child of seven, it was also easy to compare myself to my siblings and try to find my own path. When I was younger I always wanted to be a teacher. My parents were happy with most of the careers we said we wanted to pursue, my dad’s only rule was “No dependas en nadie, y no mantengas a flojos”. With five daughters, he wanted to make sure we could support ourselves in this country. 

As I grew older, I found myself being very interested in the human body. Junior year of high school, I had appendicitis and the pain was intermittent for over five months - I had received all kinds of theories from different providers I sought help from. Ultimately I got an appendectomy. This was the first time I was a patient at a hospital, had a procedure done, and stayed overnight. The overnight stay ended up being an experience I enjoyed. I got the chance to pick my nurses’ brains - one of them was a hispanic student nurse, someone who looked like me! After talking with them, I realized nursing is what I wanted to do. It’s a career with so many opportunities, I would get to help people, education would also play a key role, and I could be the Spanish speaking provider in the room to help translate, much like I did growing up with my parents.

This procedure and trip to the hospital was also very frightening, as a child of immigrants, I always worried about expenses. So naturally, while at the hospital I was scared this procedure was going to be costly for my parents. Fortunately, my father had an okay health insurance plan with his job and the out of pocket costs were something my parents could afford. But what happens to those who can’t? Or to those who don’t know how to seek resources for help? This is another reason nursing seemed like a field I would enjoy, I could help people find the resources they need or direct them to people with answers.

In 2019 I graduated nursing school and passed my NCLEX. I was initially a float pool nurse in a hospital. For the past year I’ve been a hospice nurse case manager, the company I work for was founded by Spanish speaking nurses! Living in Southern California, you would think there would be alot of Spanish speaking nurses, however, in a company with nine other case managers, I am the only RN Case Manager that speaks Spanish. 

I can clearly understand the importance of being able to accurately describe the signs and symptoms to providers for people to get the help they need. Everything from what one feels, where it hurts, what happened, and more. I am sure many of us relate to helping translate for our parents or other loved ones because there is no one there to help and advocate for them in the clinical setting. As a nurse, I get to be the one advocating for our Hispanic community. And as a future public health nurse, I hope to bring more of this advocacy and health education into the communities of Southern California.

I genuinely think that if medicine and the healthcare field are something that interests you then you should GO FOR IT! We truly need more Spanish speaking partners in the STEM community. It will be difficult on you, your family, and your friends. I missed out on birthday parties and movie nights so that I could put in extra time studying. 

At first my family didn’t understand why I needed to spend so many hours hitting the books, but yet they were excited to have someone join the medical field. They couldn’t comprehend the time and effort it required. After a few months, they understood if the door was closed, they shouldn’t bother me. I needed to focus on my studies. Eventually, I also learned to manage my time a bit better. I would go to carne asadas or reuniones familiares as a break from studying and if I really needed to, I would simply leave early to keep studying. 

I can only imagine the sense of relief a patient has when someone that looks like them or speaks their language comes into the room to take care of them, (I would see it in my own Mamá y Papá), because I see their facial expressions and it makes it all worthwhile.

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