A Nurse Who Champions Children's Safety
||Reemberto (Robert) Pérez, RN
He's heard every male nurse joke in the book, but none of them ever really bothered Reemberto (Robert) Pérez, RN, who began his career more than 20 years ago when women still overwhelmingly dominated the profession.
"When I started there were very few male nurses, now there are many more," said Pérez, 56, Head Nurse for Pediatrics at Segundo Ruiz Belvis Diagnostic and Treatment Center in the South Bronx since 1998.
"Once my son kidded me about that Hollywood movie, The Fockers, but I never got the joke," he said, referring to the comedic film in which Ben Stiller portrays a male nurse. "I don't see the any difference between men and women doing the job."
This spring, as a result of his dedicated efforts to protect the littlest patients, Pérez, received a Patient Safety Champion Award, which is given to HHC staff members who make outstanding achievements in patient safety. He was nominated by the medical center's administration.
It is an honor that he did not want to accept by himself. He said he wanted to share it with his entire team of nine, which includes a registered nurse, five licensed practical nurses and three patient care administrators. Pérez credited his ability to do a great job to his dedicated team.
Colleagues and supervisors say Pérez epitomizes the goals of HHC increase patient safety across the system by reducing preventable events such as hospital-acquired infections and medication errors.
From ensuring good vaccination practices to preventing toddler falls, Pérez works closely with the Executive Office to ensure that Belvis is always fully operational, adjusting staffing as needed. Whether he sees a crowded waiting room or a baby with a rash who needs isolation, he immediately takes action, colleagues say.
Though pleased with his recent accolade, Pérez said he believes safety should be the rule of the day-to-day operation of a health facility, and not an exception.
"If you are working with kids, safety has to be a priority," he said.
Pérez was born in Havana, Cuba and immigrated to Brooklyn at the age of 11. He viewed nursing as part of a giant medical industry that he wanted to join.
The married father of three, who lives in Carroll Gardens, began working at HHC in 1992 in the Respiratory AIDS & HIV unit at Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility after graduating from Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing, which is affiliated with Pace University.
In 1995, he moved to the pediatric unit of Belvis, the South Bronx facility where he is now head nurse. Pérez's mild-mannered temperament and gentle disposition is perfectly suited for his job working with young patients.
"You have to love to work with kids and be very patient," he explained. "They cry a lot, it takes longer to get their vitals, and the amount of immunizations that we do here is tremendous. Sometimes they don't want to take their immunization, so you have to be very patient and very dedicated."
His former nursing colleague, Elizabeth Rodriguez, who is now Senior Associate Executive Director of Belvis, is a fan.
"Many times he is the last one to leave at the end of the day," she said. "It has truly been an honor working with Mr. Pérez all these years, side by side, first as his colleague in the nursing trenches and now as his administrator, utilizing him, along with all his skills and talents, to effectively assist in transforming the way we deliver patient-centered care," she says.
Pérez has been a constant presence in the facility, and he is often the one charged with training new nurses and mentoring younger medical staff. He is an inquisitive learner who stays on top of new technology to better serve his patients, Ms. Rodriguez says.
Pérez says his greatest satisfaction has been to see his patients learn to control their asthma, a common problem in the South Bronx. An estimated 20 percent of children in the Bronx have asthma, according to an NYU study. Reducing their emergency room visits and teaching them how to better manage their condition makes him very proud.
"When they return and say thank you, it fills me with pride," he says.