Catherine “Kate” Gonzales, B.S.N, R.N., was driving to the market recently when a delivery truck stopped in front of her. The driver ran out and over to Gonzales’ car. “You’re the nurse that took care of my daughter,” said the driver. “You probably don’t remember me, but you were so important to me and to how I coped. I just wanted to thank you.”
That kind of impact on patients and families is what Gonzales said has kept her working in the intensive care unit (ICU) at City of Hope for more than 11 years.
The Los Angeles native knew she wanted to be in medicine when she was in the sixth grade, because her mother was a nurse at City of Hope and “she is my role model. She always felt it was important to give the best care to this population.”
Gonzales found she loved the ICU environment because, “it’s fast-paced, intense and you are very focused on the patient. You have to think critically all the time, because these patients are really sick. Many times you think they aren’t going to make it, and they do. That’s very satisfying.”
Gonzales, who is also a preceptor and charge nurse, is a member of City of Hope’s new rapid response nursing team.
When a patient needs rapid medical intervention, critical care nurses like Gonzales rush to the bedside as part of an all-hands-on-deck team. She also works extra shifts in City of Hope’s outpatient clinic where her mother still works.
Several years into her career, Gonzales decided to earn her B.S.N. while working full time. “My older son was in high school, and I thought I would be a good role model,” she said, smiling. She enrolled in an online program with Western Governor’s University. “It wasn’t easy. I’ve always worked two jobs, and I had to quit one in order to focus.”
Although Gonzales has been encouraged to apply for management positions, she said at this point she’s happiest at the bedside.
“Taking care of the patient and interacting with the patient’s family is what’s kept me here,” she said. “I’ve had bad days. But then a family member or a patient will say, ‘Oh, you were here for us, and that meant so much.’ And then you have a flashback of what you did for that patient or that family, and you remember that what you do really matters.”
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