Petite Nurse with a Big Heart
||Jocelyn Perez, Senior Associate Director of Nursing at Metropolitan Hospital
When Jocelyn Perez was studying nursing in her native Philippines she worried about her future in a career that she loved. Standing five feet tall, she had concerns that her petite frame would prevent her from lifting the postoperative patients in the surgical unit where she worked. Her “Aha!” moment came during the clinical rotation at an inpatient psychiatric unit.
“I realized that my size did not matter there,” she recalled. “My ability to communicate was more important and my petite frame was less threatening to patients with aggressive history. And I simply loved the experience of analyzing patients’ behaviors.”
Twenty-seven years later, Perez, now Senior Associate Director of Nursing at Metropolitan Hospital, is one of the nation’s top leaders in behavioral health and is utilizing her big mind to create innovative programs that serve patients, families, and staff.
Last month, the Queens resident was named Psychiatric Nurse of the Year, one of the most prestigious and highest national awards given by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA).
“I was surprised,” says the married mother of two, of her recent accolades. “But very proud. I am just passionate about what I do.”
Last April, Nurse Perez also received the HHC Patient Safety Champion award for work at Metropolitan Hospital to decrease staff and patient injuries, medical errors, reduce falls, and medication errors, and promote the use of proactive strategies to prevent use of restraints, and other restrictive interventions.
“Jocelyn Perez is tenacious when it comes to ensuring that our psychiatric patients receive the best possible care in an environment that values them as individuals,” says Meryl Weinberg, Metropolitan Hospital Executive Director. “She has a real passion for her work and has been creative and willing to try new things to improve patient safety and care.”
Nurse Perez began her career as a staff nurse in psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital Center more than two decades ago. Treating patients with dignity and respect became an overarching theme of her vision and she helped implement intensive staff education through Crisis Management Training, which utilizes techniques aimed to prevent and manage crisis situations to reduce violence. It’s one of her proudest achievements.
“There’s so much stigma around mental health and if I can do anything to eliminate it, I have done my job,” she explained.
At Metropolitan Hospital Center for the past five years, she established several key initiatives including the Medication Self-Administration Program to teach patients how to build their cognition and motor skills to self-administer medication. She was also involved in creating Quiet Zones, where nurses administering medicine wear yellow sashes like transit cops to alert and prevent others from distracting them.
Perez' work on patient safety has been featured three times at the National Patient Safety Congress in Washington, DC. She is a content expert panel member for the Nurse Executive Examination and a peer reviewer for the Psychiatric and Mental Health Certification Examination, both given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Washington, D.C.
“I’m always finding creative ways to improve what we do,” she says. “If I learn about what other programs or institutions are doing successfully I adapt them to fit to our unit.”
Perez received a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila and a Masters in Nursing at New York University. She credits her late father, an attorney, for teaching her to stand up for the most vulnerable.
“He always told us we have a responsibility to give back,” she explains of her father. “He always defended the poor for justice, even at times when they could not pay him.”
To balance the stress of her work, Perez enjoys traveling around the world. “It’s like therapy and I get to recharge.”
She’s visited so many countries that she’s lost count. This year she has several places on the list including Madrid, Austria, and of course to San Antonio, Texas in October to receive her APNA award.