Learning to take better care of our caregivers

January 28, 2022

Headshot of Tina Loarte-Rodriguez

The importance of taking care of caregivers rose to new importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tina Loarte-Rodriguez ‘22 continues to refine wellness best practices for coworkers and herself.

Loarte-Rodriguez is vice president of nursing at Wheeler Health, a community health center with five locations across Connecticut. Wheeler offers a wide array of health programs including integrated medical care, a therapeutic day school, behavioral health and addiction treatment.

Wheeler also hosts congregated care treatment, an initiative funded by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families for young people with temporary housing placement.

Loarte-Rodriguez will graduate from Quinnipiac’s Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program in December 2022. She holds a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies from Cornell and a BS from the University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing. She also participated in the quality assurance graduate program at California State University.

After 15 years of professional nursing experience, the onset of COVID-19 demanded a new level of communication and safety protocols in healthcare facilities. Loarte-Rodriguez worked to be available to every level of staff.

“It comes back to the foundation of emergency preparedness and understanding our team and their needs. I listened to their fears and included them in the decision-making,” she said. “As things rapidly developed around COVID-19, I made it a point to ensure that I went back to frontline staff to get recommendations and hear what was working and what wasn’t.”

Other areas of importance include ensuring Wheeler’s vulnerable patient population doesn’t feel isolated and still connects to mental health providers and nurses. Providing reliable information around COVID-19 remains a priority.

“We focus on cleaning up the misinformation that is still out there. I strive to educate in manners and methods that our patients can understand and relate to,” said Loarte-Rodriguez.

Holistic support for her staff means giving resources to her team that promote wellness and reduce stigma around mental health.

“I lead by example. I take my sick days and use my vacation time to refresh and rejuvenate so I can come back prepared to do our work,” said Loarte-Rodriguez. “We focus on strengthening our trust in each other by sharing our struggles and challenges, both professionally and personally.”

Her coursework at Quinnipiac continues to serve her during this unpredictable time, said Loarte-Rodriguez. Health policy in organizational systems is particularly useful.

“I’m learning about the power both entities have and how health organizations should leverage it, and also those in the nursing profession, in terms of advancing health policy and health equity,” she said.

Looking forward to the future, Loarte-Rodriguez sees her professional opportunity as two-fold.

“Primarily, my desire is to change our reimbursement system, so social determinates don’t impede improvements in health and wellness outcomes for all,” she said. “I also look forward to continuing to work on racism in health care by making organizations accountable for education and ongoing monitoring, as we gather data to inspire justice and belonging in our system.”

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