“It’s not how much we do- It is how much love we put into the doing.”- Mother Teresa

Healthcare professionals are unique individuals. They are leaders, organizers, communicators, and teachers.  Above all, they are compassionate. Nurses in particular, possess the ability to care deeply for people they have no initial personal connection with. Nurses are remarkable human beings and they should be honored daily.

At HTS, three generations of women in healthcare are translating the skills they already possess, and impacting the patient’s well-being in another way- through transition planning. Kelly Guzman, MN, RN is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at HTS. A few years into her career with HTS, Kelly was looking for a nurse experienced in Education. She didn’t need to look far.  Her sister, Lynn Aguilera, fit the bill to a T. Lynn has now been with HTS for seven years and is HTS’s Director of Transition Planning Services. Linda Guzman, a respiratory therapist, and Mom to Kelly and Lynn has been in healthcare for 40 years.  She joined HTS as a volunteer assisting with Licensing and Day in the Life events. In 2015, Linda became a Project Specialist. Erica Aguilera, Lynn’s daughter (and Kelly’s niece), worked as a Special Projects Coordinator at HTS until 2015.  She recently returned to school to become an RN.  The “Guzman Women” are well known in the industry for their work ethic, knowledge and for being all-around “kind” individuals.  Working side-by-side on projects across North America, they have assisted in the successful transition of over 20 projects together.  In honor of National Nurses Week, we sat down with the ladies to chat about work, nursing, and family.

Linda, what influence do you believe your career choice had on your family?

“I spent a lot of time in the ER with my kids. I liked the admitting crew and thought they had a great job. When my late husband got sick, I needed to go back to school, and get a career to support my family.  While I was in the hospital one day, I saw the respiratory therapist come in and give my husband a breathing treatment. I thought, ‘I can do that.’  So I looked into respiratory therapy school and became an RT. Being in the hospital, I found out that the hours were flexible, the pay was good, and at the time, it was a good choice for a woman if she wanted to be independent.  Every chance I got, I pushed that idea into my daughters’ heads. I talked about working in a hospital, and how great it would be for a career.  I guess it worked because two of my daughters are nurses.”

Kelly and Lynn, with all the hints from mom while you were growing up, did you know you wanted to be a nurse? Did your mom influence your decision?

Kelly:  “No, I was a swimmer and wanted to be a dolphin trainer and marine biologist. Since she was a single mom supporting us and the marine biology field was a six year degree versus 2 years for nursing, Mom said ‘You should be a nurse, it’s just 2 years. You can become a nurse, get paid great money and then become a marine biologist.’  I quickly learned that the ‘2-year program’ was 4 years! (2 years of pre-requs and 2 years of nursing).   When I passed my boards, I began working night shift at White Memorial Medical Center in the pediatric department. I became charge nurse in about three months, unheard of, but I was the only RN on night shift- so it was me! I was trained/mentored by LVNs and nurses’ aides who were awesome. I transferred to Pediatric ICU about 10 months into my career, and went back to school to get my BSN.  During my BSN program and my time in the PICU, I fell in love with nursing and had an appreciation of everything we can do as nurses.”

Lynn: “No, I wanted to be an otter (laughing), then when I figured out that I couldn’t be an otter, I wanted to be a teacher. When I was studying to be a teacher, I worked at the Los Angeles County General Hospital as an administrative assistant in the accounts receivable department. My mom always stressed that whatever job we chose, we needed to be independent, so I switched my focus and started to study nursing.  It was a lot harder than I thought and I wasn’t sure if it was really for me until I did my pediatric rotation. I knew immediately I wanted to go into pediatrics and once I graduated, I was lucky enough to land my second nursing job as a pediatric nurse!”

Lynn, your daughter Erica recently decided to pursue a career in nursing.  How do you feel about that?

“Super excited!  I love nursing and I love all the things that nurses can do!  Erica is an extremely passionate, organized, and tenacious person who I know will change the world, and make it better place.  When we talk after her clinical days or classes, I see her light up because she truly cares about her patients and their families, and wants to help them. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Erica, one could say you “grew up around nursing”.  How has that shaped you?

“I think it made me more aware of the many different ways to use nursing knowledge in your day-to-day life. For example, asking “why” if you don’t understand something, or making sure you take a moment to critically think about a problem before taking the easy way out. I also think that being raised around nurses makes selflessness the norm. Nursing is a very thankless profession and requires that you prioritize the needs of others over your own. Community service and helping others in need was a big part of my childhood.”

What made you decide to go back to school to get your RN degree?

 “There are a lot of different reasons I decided to go back to school and change my career. First, I wanted more flexibility and time at home. I love traveling and meeting new people, but I’m at the point in my life where I’m going to start a family soon so I needed a career where I can be home more often. Secondly, after working for HTS for a few years, I realized that if you want to make an impact in healthcare, you really need to be a nurse. Nurses run the hospital; they impact almost every aspect of operations. The surprising part is that after completing my first six months of clinical rotation for school, I realized how much I loved working at the bedside, and being hands-on with patients. I really thought I would use this degree as a stepping stone to work my way into management, and make an impact from an operations perspective. Now, I’m not so sure – I may stay at the bedside a little longer than I first expected.”

Lynn, at what point did you decide to make the transition into transition planning?

 “Kelly was working at a project, and needed help with the education and training component of our work.  At that time, I was a clinical educator at the hospital, and a nursing teacher at a local college. I had also just received my Master’s degree in Nursing with a specialization in health care education.  I was on a summer break from teaching so I started working with HTS, and loved the challenges and the different people I got to work with.  The transition planning piece however, was very overwhelming because everything about building a hospital and operationalizing it was new to me.  Once I started listening, and having Kelly answer my millions of questions, I thought this was a great opportunity to help hospital staff learn to work in their space before they move in and take care of patients.  When I was a nurse, I moved into a new pediatric unit, and it took me months to adjust to the new space, paths, sounds, equipment, and systems.  I was scared and felt out of my element.  I saw Transition Planning as a way to help other nurses and hospital staff to not feel the way I felt when I moved into a new space.”

Kelly, how has being a nurse better equipped you to do your job as Transition Director?

 “The nursing model I grew up with – ‘APIE’  ‘Assess, Plan, Implement, and Evaluate’-has been the approach I’ve used for just about everything I do when I’m starting something I don’t know. When I moved into the position as Transition Director at UCLA, I had no experience so I used the same model to develop a Transition Planning approach. The nursing profession requires paying attention and listening to the problem/chief complaint, developing a plan, and then implementing and evaluating the plan. The same process applies to Transition and our work. We assess our projects and the people who manage them, determine what is needed, and develop a plan. We then implement the plan with the client, and then evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Based on our evaluations and lessons learned, we make adjustments, expand our scope, and develop new and better methods. It’s a great methodology.

My professor in grad school ingrained the Kouzes and Posner Leadership Challenge into us so I have always relied on that to help me figure out what to do and where to go. The theory includes:

  1. Model the way– Establish principles regarding how to treat people (everyone) and how to achieve our goals. Essentially, this means to be the leader that you want your staff to be.
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision- Be passionate about what you are doing, and share this passion with your team.
  3. Challenge the Process– never settle for status-quo. Always look for better and innovative ways to do things- sometimes they are simple and neat (not complex). You need to be open to be challenged, and to set the stage for the team to understand ‘why’ we do things so that they can come up with better ways, and truly challenge the process. This is really my favorite part about the theory.
  4. Enable others to act– involve everyone- not just the leaders, people who have been here the longest, or the people with most experience. It’s important to understand everyone’s skills, what they bring to the table, and how they can contribute. We have the best team in the country, and we keep getting better!
  5. Encourage the heart– reward and recognize accomplishments and not just the ‘end of a project.’  We need to celebrate the little things because they turn into big things. By rewarding and recognizing people, they feel good about their work, and I think it helps others appreciate what skills they have, and perhaps areas that they personally need to work on. I love that about our team.

Finally, nurses are advocates. We speak on behalf of our patients, often like moms protecting their babies. It’s hard to be quiet, shy and/or soft spoken when you are advocating on behalf of a patient or their family. It’s a great skill and feeling when you are able to support your patient’s wishes, and this translates into life when we are advocating on behalf of our teams, committees, and ourselves.”

How is it working with your family? Does being the “Boss” change the dynamics? 

 “I love to work with them. I had a job teaching at Rio Hondo College as a clinical instructor, and Lynn was in my very first class. I tried to get the dean to change the assignment, but she said it would be fine, so I gave her (Lynn) the hardest assignments! (laughs) Then, we worked together as pediatric nurses at Whittier Presbyterian, and she was the charge nurse and my ‘boss’ so it came full circle and I had to take orders from her! (laughs)

Being the boss doesn’t really change too much since they really don’t listen to me (joking). Some of it was hard at the beginning when we didn’t have any processes, and everything was an ‘idea’, so we spent a lot of time trying to figure out what we were all talking about and what to create.  Family dinners and meals would often turn into work sessions. That wasn’t what I had envisioned. Now it’s great because there are so many more people at HTS, and more family, so it makes it easier. I do love my family, and being able to work together is 95% fun.  Plus, we’ve been able to turn some of our work visits into family vacations, like our trips to Alaska, Victoria, BC (we did tea at the Empress for Mother’s Day one year), Acadia National Park in Maine and others. Good times-and great memories.”

Lynn, you have mentioned clients have commented on how amazing it is to work with you all.  Can you share some of those experiences?

 “I love that we get to work together as a family because the clients get the perspective from three generations of healthcare and experience.  It is definitely not always a picnic working with my family, but honestly, I really enjoy learning from them, teaching them, and sharing our different perspectives at the end of a work day, a big event, or after a move.

My mom has been instrumental in facilitating relationships with the clients and front line staff. She was a hit in Alaska and San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation since culturally they hold elders with great respect. When my mom says she is ‘our mom’ the staff seem to listen to her more than ever!”

Linda, do you feel traveling to different hospitals makes you a better-rounded respiratory therapist?

“It hasn’t change my outlook because I have always provided the best care I could. I know that after over 40 years in health care, every hospital is different. I have seen many changes in health care and sometimes even go back to where it started. Overall, the work I do for HTS shows me that the future of healthcare is amazing.  I love to share the things I learn with my friends at work.”

Erica, what about being a nurse makes you the most proud/honored?

“I’m really honored that I get the opportunity to be there for people who might not have anyone else to turn to. I think it’s so rewarding to have the opportunity to make someone’s life a little bit easier, even if it’s just for the 12 hours I’m with them. I’m proud to be part of a profession that is fearlessly dedicated to advocating for the helpless, and helping people live long and happy lives.”

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