Back in 1990, Susan De Vera took a leap of faith—she accepted a job as a nurse on Saipan.
Twenty-eight years later, she’s still here, taking care of patients and sustaining a career on island that she never expected would last this long.
De Vera, a medical/surgical ward nurse, along with more than 100 of her colleagues at the Commonwealth Health Center and in the private sector, are taking center stage from June 10 to 16 as the CNMI community honors them during CNMI Nurse Week.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres declared Nurse Week in a proclamation signing last Wednesday at the Office of the Governor on Capital Hill. Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) represented the Legislature.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther L. Muña, CHC hospital administrator Jesse M. Tudela, Northern Marianas College Nursing Department chair Rosa Tudela, nursing instructor Johnny Aldan, Department of Fire and Emergency Services personnel led by Commissioner Clyde Norita, and CHC and private nurses witnessed the proclamation signing.
De Vera recounted that a friend had told her about an agency that would be going to the Philippines to recruit nurses to work in the CNMI. “I applied but I’m not sure where Saipan was back then. I saw on the map like it was only a dot, so I thought maybe it was fake.”
Despite that, De Vera joined 14 others in taking the employment exam. “Only two of us passed the exam but I was the only one who was hired after the interview.”
She was among the first nurses hired to work at the then soon-to-be opened surgical ward.
De Vera remains a CW-1 employee but said Saipan has become her second home and has no plans of working or going to another place if she obtains another immigration visa.
“Some of my fellow nurses back then are already in the U.S. mainland. But me, I chose to stay here since [Saipan] is a beautiful place. You can go visit the Philippines any time you want to,” said De Vera, who previously worked at the Manila Doctors Hospital and also became a private nurse.
She also thanked Rosa Tudela for all the things that the NMC Nursing Department chair taught her when she was still the nursing director at CHC. “She was the one who trained me and I learned a lot from her.”
A teary-eyed De Vera also thanked all the patients that came under her care. “All of my patients liked me. And every time they are admitted or go off island, they would acknowledge me. They tell that they want me to take care of them as their nurse.”
Acknowledging their service
Torres said that Nurses Week should remind the community of the service nurses give. “This give the opportunity for us to acknowledge our nurses. [Like] Susan who served as a nurse for 28 years. She has given a lot of patient care for the community and throughout the island, Nurses, same as doctors, you guys are at the front. The first stop of every patient that goes to the hospital.”
More than 4 million nurses are part of the largest healthcare profession in the entire United States, including the territories.