Jason Guajardo has spent nearly 20 years working as a nurse at Christus Spohn Hospital Kleberg, following in the footsteps of his mother, Diana.
“I felt like it was a calling,” Guajardo said. “And I actually work with my mother now at the hospital. She’s close to retirement, but she loves what she does so much.”
Guajardo works in Spohn Kleberg’s intensive care unit, which he said “can be very unpredictable” with the medical situations he and the rest of the staff face.
“But the thing is, it’s not a solo journey,” he said. “You have to depend on the people that you work with, and we all bring a different skill set.”
A 1996 graduate of Bishop High School, Guajardo received his licensed vocational nurse certification from Coastal Bend College and his associate’s degree to become a registered nurse from Del Mar College in Corpus Christi.
Guajardo said he remembers his first year as a nurse, working at Christus Spohn Shoreline in Corpus Christi in 2001 during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“So I got to see the effect of a national tragedy on people, and the first time I experienced that type of global fear,” he said.
Guajardo said the experiences he had during that tragedy, along with the guidance he received from the hospital’s veteran nursing staff, prepared him not just for his career, but also for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know it’s not exactly the same, but again I’m seeing this global fear,” he said. “Only now, it’s through the eyes of a 41-year-old experienced nurse, and it’s been my turn to act as a guide to these younger nurses. And I have been thoroughly impressed with their skills, their mentality and their bravery.”
Guajardo said though the COVID-19 pandemic is “something we’ve never seen before” and “the fear cannot be denied,” he feels that the hospital’s nursing staff has been able to help each other to face those fears on a daily basis.
“It’s here, and we’re looking at this thing right in our face,” he said. “So now we have to act accordingly.”
Mindy Garcia, another nurse at Christus Spohn Kleberg with the medical-surgical unit, said it was important to her to continue to do her job in spite of the pandemic.
“Actually, even more so,” Garcia said. “The patients that we have admitted are very fearful and very nervous – and understandably so – but I want them to see that we understand and, while we are scared too, we are here for them.”
Garcia has been a nurse for seven years. She said she was inspired after her mother, Tina, was hospitalized with brain cancer.
“I was about 18, and she was very, very sick,” she said. “And the treatment she received at the hospital was horrible. She passed away just two days post-op, and I decided then that I was going to become a nurse.”
Garcia said patient care has been one of her biggest priorities as a nurse.
“And the fact that I’m able to give back to my community in this way has been amazing,” she said.
Since the pandemic began, the hospital has taken steps to minimize risks to hospital staff and patients, including closing the building to most visitors and requiring the use of facemasks at all times.
“We treat everybody, even our coworkers, as if they have the virus,” Garcia said. “That way, we always remain on high alert and extra precautious.”
“It can be a little frustrating, but what we keep in mind is how very necessary it is at this point,” Guajardo said. “It’s for everyone’s safety, and we’re trying to protect our patients, our community and ourselves.”
Guajardo said the pandemic has also been a strain on their families, for whom they have to “take extra precautions” to make sure they avoid any potential spread when returning home.
“We’re trying to protect everyone, but we also have to keep our families safe as well,” he said. “It doesn’t stop at the hospital, we bring it home with us here, so my family, we have a system going to try to prevent any contamination or any exposure.”
“Some of us have big families or elderly parents, so we are very careful about bringing something home,” Garcia said.
Guajardo said as a rural hospital, Christus Spohn Kleberg has been fortunate that the rise in local confirmed cases has been “gradual and controllable.”
“And I am very grateful for that,” he said. “But as nurses, we still prepare for the worst.”
“It’s an ever-evolving situation,” Garcia said. “It’s been interesting seeing it all play out, and things can change on a daily basis, but our management team has done a really good job handling the situation.”
During National Nurses Week, which ran May 6-12, the Kingsville community honored and celebrated the Christus Spohn Kleberg nursing staff, which includes more than 100 registered and licensed vocational nurses, for their hard work and dedication.
Guajardo and Garcia both thanked the community for the recognition, calling their support “humbling” and “flattering.”
“This is the job that we do, and you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t love it,” Guajardo said. “This is what we’re here for and we’re just looking to make a contribution, but it is very flattering to feel the appreciate from the community.”