It is just minutes before 7 a.m., and Nurse Practitioner Elva Rodriguez strides into the building where she was born, in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. Back then it housed St. Francis Hospital. Today it houses the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Diagnostic and Treatment Center, where she has worked in Women’s Health Service for more than 20 years.
Each morning, in the quiet time before patients arrive, Rodriguez works on the database she has fine-tuned and perfected to track all Pap and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) tests performed at Belvis. If the results are abnormal, she makes sure the patient is contacted and follows her through every step of testing and reporting, making sure that each step occurs in a timely manner.
“Elva doesn’t let a single patient slip through the cracks,” says Dr. Amanda Falick Ascher, Medical Director at Belvis. “She is our patient safety champion every day.”
Rodriquez was recently recognized for her hard work and dedication, her commitment to patient care, and her innovative thinking in using the database to track patients. On May 10 she was one of six New York City employees to receive the prestigious Sloan Public Service Award given by the Fund for the City of New York.
She was Director of Nursing at Belvis for four years, where the work involved management and administration and took her away from direct patient care.
“I missed the patients, so I went back to patient care” she said. “I grew up in this neighborhood, in the projects. Whenever I see the patients, it gives me joy to know that I can give them the help they deserve. That means the world to me.”
Her rapport with her patients is obvious. She measures patient Olanda Colmenares’ belly and then together they listen to the galloping-horse sound of the fetal heartbeat. Both women look thrilled. Rodriguez gives Colmenares advice on how to sleep more comfortably and reviews the symptoms of labor, so the patient will know exactly when to go to the hospital.
“Everything is fine, and your boy will arrive in about two weeks,” Rodriguez says with a big smile.
“It is so important for mothers to get prenatal care, eat well, exercise and have a healthy pregnancy so they can have a healthy baby. And for all women to get the healthcare they deserve. I’m here to make that happen,” she said.
It was long-time patient and Mott Haven resident Cindy Romero who nominated Rodriguez for the Sloan Award. “Elva has been my ob-gyn provider for so many years. We are patient and provider, but at Belvis we have also become really good friends. Even if it’s time for her to go home, she’ll stay and talk,” Romero explains.
Rodriguez, 56, got her nursing degree at Keuka College in upstate New York on an Aspira Scholarship for young Latinos. She married her college sweetheart Americo Rodriguez, a teacher. Their daughter Sabrina is a school psychologist in Harlem.
She had already been a nurse at Belvis for five years when, in 1993, she trained for national certification for the obstetrics, gynecological and neonatal nursing specialties – becoming a nurse practitioner. Because the Bronx Consortium, which included Belvis, paid for that education, she had to work three years at Belvis in return. “Eighteen years later, I’m still here.”