Providence St. Joseph Health. Caring for the vulnerable

{This is a sponsored post}


I recently had the opportunity to interview Rosie Perez, senior vice president of Mission Integration. As a Texas native and results-focused leader, her mission is to care for the poor and vulnerable. Her passion for helping those in need led her to become a nurse and eventually led her to take on the role as a mission leader at Providence St. Joseph Health.

I asked her a few questions about her inspiration, and how she brings awareness to issues she encounters in the healthcare industry.


1. What was your inspiration?
Many different things or events have inspired me in life. I have been inspired by my family, particularly by my mother who sacrificed a lot to make sure I had what I needed to succeed in school to become a nurse.

I became a nurse because of the nurse I saw in the free public health clinic for the poor. Seeing how she provided compassionate care for her patients made me want to help others, too. I am inspired by the religious women who founded our health system and their love of God and their ingenuity in serving the poor and vulnerable for over 160 years. I am most inspired by the communities we serve. When a group of people come together with few resources to create a positive change to improve the health of their communities or to advocate for a better quality of life for their families, it just makes me want to do more, do better in helping others.


2. What keeps you motivated?
The mission, values, vision of my organization, PSJH, keeps me motivated to be an expression of God’s healing love, to serve all especially those who are poor and vulnerable and to do it with compassion, dignity, justice, excellence and integrity to bring about health for a better world. Tall order but it’s how I stay motivated to use my voice to advocate for the poor and vulnerable, to push for reforms in health care and seek innovative ways to transform health care so that all have access to quality compassionate care.

3. How can someone inspire others to get involved?
I love the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. about everyone can be great because everybody can serve. I think at times people do not get involved because they think they need special skills or training. I remember one time a grateful Hispanic patient came to the clinic and said to me I want to help but I “don’t know anything”. I said really? You seem like a really smart and nice lady. I then asked her if she ever made tamales and she responded yes and I’m sure looked at me funny wondering what did making tamales have to do with helping at a free clinic. Making tamales is a very involved process. I asked her more questions about how she made tamales and she detailed how she planned, organized, and managed the entire process. I then pointed out her leadership skills, her organizational skills and said I thought you said you didn’t know how to do anything! I then asked the lady if she would be willing to call neighborhood people to invite them to a community meeting about safe streets. Inspiring others to get involved means you have to show people how easy it is, that anyone can get involved, be willing to listen, educate on the issues, and provide a variety of ways one can get involved for a few minutes, a few hours or a few days.

4. How important is it to get children involved?
I think getting children involved is important so they can learn about compassion towards others, tolerance, build confidence and develop a sense of community responsibility - to promote the common good, especially for the poor and vulnerable.

5. If you could improve one thing about healthcare, what would it be?
I would have to say cost, the cost of health care. I’m not going to get into details of the why of rising health care costs, increasing GDP, or need for coverage, etc. All I know is that I have seen over the life of my career as a nurse and health care executive too many times where people have delayed seeking health care due to fear of the cost of receiving care. I have seen very sick patients want to leave the hospital because they fear a high hospital bill, I have seen patients not fill their prescriptions or cut pills in half because they can’t afford them, I have seen people not seek preventive care because of perceived costs. People deserve affordable quality care.

6. Why do you believe more Hispanics should enter the healthcare industry?
The healthcare workforce doesn’t reflect a U.S. population of 18% Latinos or that the census projects 24% of the population will be Latino by 2045. I believe that our hospitals, clinics, health program personnel should reflect the communities we serve. This isn’t just about having people who speak Spanish, this is about culture, socio-economics, social determinants of health. I think we need Hispanics in health care to influence care, develop policies to improve care of the community, to deliver culturally competent care. We not only need more Hispanic doctors, nurses and other health care providers but we also need more Hispanics in the healthcare C-suite and on boards. I believe diversity is important. If we say we care about serving our patients and community then our staff and leadership need to represent the demographics.

I was fortunate as I moved along in my career in healthcare to have the benefit of leadership development, mentors that helped me be strategic in my career goals and the support of my community.


7. How can a community get involved with advocating for better healthcare?
There are many ways the community can get involved in advocating for better healthcare. What comes to mind first is reaching out to legislative representatives and policy makers to protect and expand Medicaid, funding for mental health, addressing the opioid crisis, and prevention of suicides. You can learn about opportunities for direct advocacy in our PSJH Action Center. Click on the state where you live to find out what is happening in your area.

I think another meaningful way the community can get involved is by looking up a hospital’s Community Health Needs Assessment. Every not-for-profit hospital does a needs assessment every three years and posts the results on their websites. The hospital needs to engage with the community, collaborate with the community to address the needs, and advocate for solutions that will improve the health of the community. PSJH posts our assessments at PSJHealth.org/Cares.

8. When it comes to providing care for others, what do you wish people knew?
Not to underestimate the importance of compassion. In providing care to others it is easy to get caught up on all the treatment and technology but compassion is just as important; being present, listening, acknowledging the person, providing a comforting touch goes a long way in the care for others.

9. How can helping others change your life?
Helping others makes your life more meaningful by connecting with others, building stronger connections to community and making a difference. I think it also builds resilience and gives you a sense of belonging. All good things!


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