Latinx Career Diaries: What It’s Really Like to Be a Registered Nurse

Art by Alan López for Remezcla

As of 2016, Latinos make up 16.8 percent – 26.8 million – of the workforce in the United States. While there are plenty of statistics about the industries (tech, legal, STEM, and many more) where our communities are sorely underrepresented and how the wage gap disproportionately affects Latinas (and other women of color), we wanted to learn more about what it’s like to pursue your career goals as a Latino today.

That’s why we’re launching Latinx Career Diaries. Twice a month, we’ll offer you a peek into what it’s like to work a certain job as a Latino. The goal is to give you an idea of what people with your similar experiences earn, help you pick up some negotiation tactics, and provide guidance if you’re embarking on your career.

Submit a questionnaire here, and check out more Latinx Career Diaries here.

These responses have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Age: 27

Background: Mapuche, Chilean-American

Preferred Pronoun: She

Job Title: Registered Nurse

Location: Arizona

Years of Experience: 1

Salary: $50,000. I feel I am paid what I’m worth, but I and every other bilingual nurse or nursing assistant (tech) should be paid more for our language skills.

Negotiation Process: I didn’t negotiate very much at all. I was talking to a friend recently about that process, and I am stunned. I didn’t know you could do that!

Benefits: Healthcare, vision, and dental. My plan is simple with low coverage, because I don’t have many health issues as of yet.

How I Broke In: I wanted to be a part of healthcare since seeing my mama go through cancer as a teen. My aunts and godmother are nurses. I broke in by going to community college for two years then applying to universities. Before nursing school, I was a caregiver at a group home and did elder care in the neighborhood. From a young age, I’ve been around elders in my family and helped out with their needs. I’ve always found a way to care for others, so being around people who are ill or injured or dying is a comfortable place for me.

Responsibilities: During each 12-hour shift, I monitor neuro/ortho patients’ (six each night) health status. I administer important medications, call physicians if a patient’s health declines and perform life-saving interventions at times. I admit and discharge patients to the floor. I take detailed notes of how all the patients are doing. I prepare people for surgeries and receive them afterward. I provide comfort care for patients who are actively dying. In all the cases, I offer emotional support for patients and their families.

What I like Most/Least: What I like the least is the high nurse to patient ratio (Arizona is a non-union state for nurses), the lack of funds and resources for my hospital (we primarily serve Latino and Native patient populations), and the social politics of the lateral nursing staff (pettiness, rumors, racism, sexism, etc.).

Diversity: More than half of our patients are Latinos. The majority of nursing assistants are Latino. I am one of very few Latina RNs. I find friendship with techs and other POC RNs. The racism I witness from patients or staff is hard to swallow. I mainly keep my head down as I am still new. I feel the need to prove myself as an outstanding nurse first and foremost. Then, I can be vocal about injustices I see and will be taken seriously.

Growth Potential: I do feel there’s potential for growth. Next year, I plan to move to Chile to be with family, advance my language skills, and learn from socialist healthcare systems. When I return, I would like to become an ER nurse, then a rapid response nurse. Then, eventually, a nurse educator to teach the next generation the joys and challenges of this field.

What I wish I Knew Before: I wish I would have realized how much of healthcare is run like a lucrative business. Also, how hard it is to witness extreme health declines.

Final Thoughts: My nursing degree and license are my most precious titles. Even on my worst days, I don’t regret this path I’ve chosen. I am able to travel anywhere I want to and find work. The possibilities within nursing are endless.