NEW YORK NURSE: May 2008
by Randi Hoffman
“When I was starting my career, an RN who was also a retired police officer often told me I was going to go places,” said Lydia Lopez. “He saw something in me, and up to this day we’re the best of friends.” This is only one of the reasons Lopez chooses to be a mentor for young nurses, many of whom share her Hispanic heritage.
“She does troubleshooting and helps me clarify things,” said Christopher Ruiz, 23, a nursing student at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center School of Nursing where Lopez teaches.
Lopez is a member of both the NYSNA Board of Directors and the board of directors of the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN). It is through NAHN’s Hispanic Student Nurses’ Mentoring Project that Ruiz was paired with Lopez as his mentor. Ruiz will be the first in his family to graduate from college. Like Lopez, his family is from Puerto Rico.
Lopez has been working with Ruiz, a senior, since he was a freshman. “Out of her own time, she’ll help with test-taking strategies and how to break down a question on a test.” Ruiz said that while he currently likes working on the maternity ward, he hopes to go into orthopedics.
Lopez said the main goal of the NAHN is to recruit and retain minority nurses. “I try to keep them interested in their coursework,” she said. “It’s heavy, very scientifically based. I try to give them strategies to facilitate academic success. The students in the mentoring program have a 100% success rate.”
Lopez currently mentors about five nursing students of different ages and backgrounds.
She said nursing school is more difficult for those students who did not attend college preparatory high schools. “They have trouble with time management and study habits,” she said. “A lot of the students also have trouble writing.”
Lopez herself came to the United States when she was two years old. She says she had always wanted to be a nurse. “As far back as I remember, I recall going to the hospital with my mother . . . the starched white uniforms caught my eye. I knew that this was a caring profession, something I wanted to do.”
In 1995 she graduated from the school of nursing where she now teaches. She worked as an assistant nurse manager in the pulmonary infectious disease unit at what was then St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center. She earned her master’s degree from Walden University in 2007.
Lopez currently teaches the Nursing Concepts course to first-year students and the Issues and Trends in Nursing and Pharmacology courses to seniors. She is a clinical instructor in the Advanced Medical-Surgical Nursing course.
Lopez also works as a per-diem staff nurse educator at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, and as an adjunct professor of nursing in the accelerated BSN program at Adelphi University. She conducts workshops on NCLEX test-taking strategies and recently was one of six nurses nationwide selected to write the NCLEX-RN exam for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. She has a 20-year-old daughter attending college in Miami.
“It’s not hard to recruit people into nursing,” Lopez said. “Sometimes the obstacles are financial, and another obstacle is that nursing is sometimes not perceived as a glamorous profession. Not everyone is cut out to be nurse. It takes a special person to be a nurse. It’s a calling.”
Lopez became involved with NYSNA when she worked to help the association win the election to represent the nurses at St. Vincent’s. Then she served on their negotiating team to secure their first contract. “I was involved in the whole internal process,” said Lopez. “We were looking for a voice.”
Lopez participated in the NYSNA Leadership Fellows program in 2003, and she currently serves on the NYSNA-PAC Board of Trustees.