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For Veronica, being a nurse is a lifelong calling

As a child, Veronica Leon volunteered in nursing homes and hospitals and played games nursing her dolls back to health. In honor of Nurses Week 2019, we spoke with her about her passion for the field.
Veronica Leon, RN, BSN, PHN, a nurse and care coordinator, serves patients at University of Minnesota Health Maple Grove Clinics. “We aim to be the best for our patients, be the best version of ourselves. Whenever I come to work, it is not work—it is a second home.”

Ever since Veronica Leon, RN, BSN, PHN, could remember, she’s always felt a calling to be a nurse.

As a young child growing up in California, her favorite game was nursing her dolls to health. Many of her relatives were in the healthcare profession, and when she grew older she often volunteered in the local emergency room and nursing home. She has never forgotten the reactions she received from patients when she brought them a cookie, a magazine, or listened to their stories.

Her passion led her to nursing school at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, then Metropolitan State University, and she has worked as a nurse for 16 years. She spent many of those years at Fairview Clinics - Brooklyn Park, and now serves as care coordinator at University of Minnesota Health Maple Grove Clinics.

In honor of Nurses Week 2019, we sat down with Leon to ask a few questions about her passion for nursing, her day-to-day responsibilities and the philosophy she takes to her work.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

I can remember wanting to be a nurse from a very young age. I remember dressing up my dolls and playing nurse with them. When I was young, my little sister also needed medical care. Seeing her receive care motivated me.

Growing up in California, I had family members in the medical field and they were a great influence in my decision to become a nurse. They would bring me to nursing homes and hospitals to volunteer. This fostered my passion to help others. Watching the faces of the patients light up when I would listen to them talk, bring them a cookie or offer them a magazine really made an impression on me. In fifth grade, we performed a Cinco de Mayo celebration in a nursing home and I still remember the delight on the people’s faces as we danced.

Tell us about your nursing role and your day-to-day responsibilities. How do you work with patients to improve their quality of life?

I have a dual role in my current position in Maple Grove. I serve in patient triage for primary care, where I take phone calls, assist with walk-in appointments and connect patients with care coordination if they need extra help.

I am also a care coordinator. Navigating the ever-changing healthcare system is challenging; add illness to the equation and the challenge multiplies. As a care coordinator, I can spend more one-on-one time with patients and their families to identify needs, match resources and help them find their way through the healthcare system. I also create care plans, implement interventions and promote education and patient safety.

I want to help patients achieve their best health. This often means working with our medication management team to ensure patients understand their medications. I also collaborate with our behavioral health staff. Often our patients have depression, anxiety or another mental health condition. I help each person navigate the system and be seen by a behavioral health care provider so that they receive the healthcare they need. I also ensure our patients are connected with community resources. This might include transportation support, insurance benefit education or other forms of assistance. Finally, I take a preventive care approach to health by ensuring that patients don’t fall through the cracks.

In the spirit of the #WhatIsNursing hashtag online—what is nursing to you? How do you personally define the field and why are you passionate about it?

The core of my nursing philosophy is based on the art of caring, ethics and evidence-based care.

But nursing to me is also about being present in the moment and walking side-by-side with each patient in a compassionate, holistic manner. Healthcare is changing and we need to look at it from the side of the patients, see it through their lens and provide a positive experience. In nursing, when you have care coordination available you can answer questions and clarify information. Assisting patients who have complex health challenges and helping them navigate the system is definitely a needed field. Patients are more confident, connected and engaged in their own health when healthcare choices are developed by a comprehensive team through a shared decision-making process with the patient.

What do you love about your nursing community?

Nursing is a profession that will always require more of you. As our healthcare system evolves, the need for education and training will need to move forward with it. Medical advances, the increasing number of complex patients and our aging population are all driving this need in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Nursing within the University of Minnesota Health and Fairview system is very rewarding. The essence of providing the best possible care and meeting patients where they are at is something we feel throughout the system. We aim to be the best for our patients, be the best version of ourselves. Whenever I come to work, it is not work—it is a second home. The team I work with is truly amazing. I am proud of my profession and our mission to promote life to its fullest capacity.