Celebrating our Fab 50 Nurses: Damiana Cohen

Damiana CohenDamiana Cohen, manager of the Mother Baby and Women’s Care Units at Tucson Medical Center took an interest in birth when she was 12 and happened upon a book about midwifery.

The road to nursing didn’t come right after high school though; she took a non-traditional path and along the way collected a number of experiences, from three years of college, to travel in South America, to driving a school bus and waiting tables.

But she never lost that fascination with the stories of birth, and she went to school to become a licensed midwife, ultimately spending more than 12 years with families who wanted to have birth experiences at home.

When it was time for a new chapter, Cohen went to nursing school – a decision she’s never regretted because of the experiences that unfolded from there, from working with marginalized populations to teenagers finding their way in the world.

Cohen spent 12 years working as a forensic nurse performing post-sexual assault exams and on that time she reflects, “That really and truly was my passion. Not always, but a lot of times, it’s the marginalized people in a society who are victimized. And in some ways, it was a bit like being a midwife, because you’re there with somebody, one-on-one, helping them through this very intense situation. It’s smart, autonomous nursing, it’s scientific, it’s about human rights and a person’s dignity – and I would go home and feel like I really impacted someone’s life.”

Cohen spent three years working as a school nurse with pregnant and parenting teenagers. “Hardly any of them had a parent figure in their lives, so I could be that presence to tell them what so few had a chance to hear: That they mattered and I cared. I wanted them to be empowered to be parents while still having their lives and finishing their education.” She still connects from time to time with some of those students; many of whom were inspired to become nurses.

“I think I’ve enjoyed my nursing career because I’ve done so many different things,” Cohen said. “Life has offered me opportunities that I haven’t foreseen. And I’ve always believed that when something comes your way, it’s good to reflect on what the universe is offering you and take a moment to listen.”

Just as she’s had many careers, she has many facets outside of work – a mom to her sons, now 25 and 29, a runner, a hiker, an organic gardener, a film fanatic, a reader, a cat lover, a supporter of women and equality, a birdwatcher and nature lover, a lifelong learner, a traveler, a thinker, a seeker, and a sister and a friend.

And through all that, her underlying motto is, “Be a good human.”

“I find that when I do that, everything else seems to fall into place.”

Tucson Nurses Week Foundation recognizes, publicizes, and supports the accomplishments, innovations, and contributions of nurses to the health of our community by honoring 50 outstanding nurses as the Fabulous 50. Well done Damiana on being nominated and recognized as one of Tucson’s Fab 50.

 

Celebrating our Fab 50 Nurses: Veronica Riesgo

Veronica RiesgoFor TMC Nurse Manager Veronica Riesgo, her dedication to patients and her coworkers goes beyond the profession and is part of her passion to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Riesgo’s first priority and first career was her family. “I was a stay-at-home mom for 13 years,” she said.  “But I always had a desire to help others and I always thought about pursuing work in nursing.”

When her children reached ages in double-digits, Riesgo volunteered at a local hospital to see if the desire was still there. “The passion was stronger than ever,” she said. “Soon I was enrolled in nursing school and working full-time as a patient care technician (PCT).”

As a full-time PCT, a full-time student and a full-time mom, there wasn’t much room on Riesgo’s plate. “I wouldn’t change anything – it was so beneficial and rewarding.”

After graduating and becoming an RN, Riesgo never slowed down – working in cardo-thoracic, transplant, ICU and other high-acuity units. “It is challenging, but when you have that opportunity to help someone on what might be their worst day – it is very meaningful,” explained Riesgo.

With remarkable stress and a dizzying pace, high-acuity units have a reputation for burn-out. For Riesgo, a unique outlook has helped her thrive in the demanding environment and kept her coming back, day-after-day.

“It’s a dedication to people, not just the profession,” she said. “A dedication to the patients and the incredible nurses I work with. We know that no matter what happens or how hard the day is, we’re going to make it happen, together.”

This incredible attitude, combined with her knowledge of critical care and strong organizational skills paved the way to management positions where she has achieved notable successes, such as helping reduce the patient injury rate by 45 percent in just one year.

Now managing a 36-bed, combined critical care unit with more than 100 staff reporting to her, Riesgo was named one of the 2018 Fabulous 50 nurses. “I’m so honored,” she said. “I’m grateful for my experiences and the nurses I work with every day.”

Advice from a Fab 50 nurse? “When you put others first, it changes your perspective and you recognize that you are involved in something bigger than yourself.”

Tucson Nurses Week Foundation recognizes, publicizes, and supports the accomplishments, innovations, and contributions of nurses to the health of our community by honoring 50 outstanding nurses as the Fabulous 50. Well done Veronica on being nominated and recognized as one of Tucson’s Fab 50.

Mission Moment: Nurse heroes saving a life out in the community

When nurses Kimberly Fore and Cindy Sacra agreed to staff the first aid booth at the recent Health Insurance Enrollment & Family Fun Festival in early December, they figured they might help with the small injuries that can come along with community running events.

With three races that morning, including nearly 1,000 girls and their running buddies doing a 5k through Girls on the Run, they figured it would be the usual. Scrapes. Maybe a blister. At worst, a turned ankle.

So in that split second when they heard there was a runner down during a 1-mile running event for men, they thought maybe they’d be patching up a skinned knee.

Fore, the director of TMC Hospice, started loping out to the scene. A passing runner told her it was serious. She broke into a sprint and found the runner in the throes of a serious medical event.

Sacra, the Clinical Informatics team lead, was right behind her, carrying medical supplies.

The two, along with TMCOne front desk service representative Lauren Barnhart, whose son was participating in the race, provided CPR until medics arrived.

In large part because of the speedy reaction of the TMC staff member, the man was revived and taken to the hospital.

While others at the festival were in awe of the heroic work that unfolded before them, Fore and Sacra afterward brushed off any adulation. “We’re nurses. This is what we do,” Fore said. Sacra agreed. “When we have an opportunity to help someone in need, we are always going to respond.”

Barnhart agreed that help was just instinctive. “It was my first reaction to help this gentleman. In the moment I was doing what I do best. It is so rewarding to know I helped save someone’s grandpa, uncle, brother, dad or son.”

But for others, it was a moment that crystallized TMC’s mission.

“Our mission is to provide exceptional health care with compassion. That was on display on this day and I am humbled to work with amazing people who serve our community every day,” said Julia Strange, TMC’s vice president of Community Benefit.

Tucson Medical Center earlier this year adopted a new mission statement. To celebrate, we will share an ongoing series of “mission moments.”

What are mission moments? They aren’t necessarily dramatic stories of heroism, although our medical staff saves lives every day. These are moments that breathe life into words – moments that are profound or powerful or touching and that remind us why we do the work we do. Hundreds of these reminders happen every day. Thank you for letting us share some with you.

Do you have a TMC mission moment you’d like to share? Send it to Communications@tmcaz.com.


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461