11 Feb Family Values and Hard Work Drive Passion for Nursing
Born at Olympic Medical Center, Karla Najera is the first person in her large family to become a nurse, and she is proud to be a nurse at OMC.
Growing up in a close-knit family fueled Karla Najera’s passion to pursue a nursing career, but it was the learned family values of hard work and determination that nurtured her to become an obstetrics nurse at Olympic Medical Center.
Najera’s father immigrated from Mexico to Sequim in the early 1990s along with his parents and 11 siblings, many of whom make their homes in Clallam County. Her extended family is even larger, as her mom is one of six kids.
“Growing up in such a big family that has a really big value on taking care of each other, that was really important to me,” Najera said. “That’s what really pushed me to want more specifically to be in OB, but also nursing in general.”
Najera was born at OMC. She is the first person in her large family to become a nurse, and she is proud to be a nurse at OMC.
“Being in a smaller community, it does help make the job a little bit more special and meaningful,” Najera said.
From a young age, Najera learned the value of hard work. Her grandfather worked for farms in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley and would often bring her and her brother along to help out.
“He would wake us up at four in the morning. ‘All right, let’s go,’” Najera recalls. “To see that growing up, you see people working really hard and the sacrifices [they make].”
Years later, her grandparents moved back to Mexico, and Najera recalls visiting her grandparents in the tiny village of Cuetzala, about 150 miles south of Mexico City. Her grandfather would ride a donkey or walk each day from their small house to the community well at the bottom of the hill to collect their water for the day.
“It was eye-opening for me,” Najera said. “Memories that have stuck with me and still push me to want to be better and work harder, even when it gets tough. …There’s people out there that have it a lot tougher.”
“My family has always been dreamers, wanting more for their children,” Najera said. “Especially migrating here from such a poor area…they always wanted a lot more for us.”
Growing up in such a big family that has a really big value on taking care of each other, that was really important to me. That's what really pushed me to want more specifically to be in OB, but also nursing in general. - Karla Najera
Najera decided she wanted to become a nurse during her junior year at Sequim High School. She’s happy with the career path she chose. But the journey required hard work and determination.
“I’m going to do the best I can, and I’m not going to just give up when it gets hard because there’s a lot of other hard obstacles to come in life,” Najera said.
With her sights set on nursing school, Najera enrolled in Running Start at Peninsula College as a high school senior. After graduating from Sequim High School, she completed her second year of prerequisite classes at PC while balancing two jobs.
While enrolled in Peninsula College’s nursing program, Najera spent two years as a Certified Nursing Assistant in OMC’s ICU/Telemetry unit. She worked shifts at the hospital whenever it fit her academic schedule – weekends, evenings and nights. The work ethic instilled by her family kept her motivated through tough classes and long days spent in school and at work.
“It’s everything that I thought it would be and more,” Najera said. “The coworkers are amazing, the unit…the way all of them work together, and they’re all really close. I do really love it.”
This past summer, she was hired full-time in the Obstetrics Department. As a newly graduated RN, Najera says her coworkers have been helpful and willing to teach. She credits those relationships as paramount to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic as a new nurse.
“It’s a great program, definitely for new graduates to apply to because you do have so much help and so much guidance,” Najera said. “There’s always someone that’s checking in. They want you to get better at your job and just learn as much as you can. I have really appreciated how I’ve been treated as a new grad here by all staff. All the nurses here are really, really personable.”
“I love being able to talk with them about just anything because they’re always willing to listen. The nursing staff is great here. They’re all really supportive of each other.”
At Olympic Medical Center, obstetrics nurses are involved in many stages of a pregnancy and birth, beginning with nonstress tests and culminating with labor and delivery and postpartum recovery. The same is not necessarily true at metropolitan hospitals, where different units specialize in each phase.
“When you get to mesh them all together, you do get to learn more and you get to do a lot more,” Najera said. “I do appreciate that about our floor specifically, too.”
For Najera, realizing her dream career while serving the community in which she grew up is a perfect fit.
“You get to challenge yourself in the nursing field, but still get the small-town feel,” Najera said. “It’s a beautiful place to live.”