Elsa Misola Aguila, BSN, RN 

A Nurse by Nature Elsa Misola Aguila

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Thursday May 25, 2017

Monica Dickens, the great granddaughter of Charles Dickens, describes nursing as “a kind of mania,” something one could not get out of their system. She wrote that this explains why hospital nurses are able to endure the long hours, hard work, and concentrated energy required for a job that is not only technical and complex, but also the heart and soul of caring. Elsa Misola Aguila, BSN, RN, understands Dicken’s sentiments well for she practices the art of nursing as her calling. A nurse in the oncology unit at the University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center, Aguila works 12 hour nights plying her craft. According to Nurse Manager Ann M. Adsem, “Elsa personifies nursing: highly educated, skilled, compassionate and hardworking, and she has been nothing short of a gift to Shepardson 4.”

Adsem’s commendation comes perfectly timed as National Nurses Week is observed annually each May. Founded by the American Nurses Association, the week, which includes the birth date of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, recognizes the significant contributions nurses like Aguila make every single day.

Aguila, who has lived in South Burlington since 2009, has been in nursing for over 25 years. She says she wanted to be a nurse ever since she was three-years-old, growing up in the Philippines. It was then that she spent time at a hospital, accompanying her mother who was tending to Aguila’s aunt. The aunt, who was near her due date, was advised to stay in the hospital because of a pending typhoon. Aguila still recalls watching nurses in crisp white uniforms wearing caps on their head and it made an impact. Naturally caring and compassionate, Aguila says, “When I decided to be a nurse when I was at a young age, I saw it as a calling. It is a vocation.”

Having graduated in 1991 and passing the Philippine Nurses Board exam the same year, Aguila worked at the University Hospital in the Philippines and was a private nurse for over nine years taking care of a child with special needs beginning at the age of two-weeks-old. She notes that she is still close to the family, something that is emblematic of Aguila’s ability to make real connections with her patients. As is true of many a nurse, her caring is holistic and warm-hearted. “For all the years that I have worked in different fields of nursing I realized that it is not the financial gain that is important,” says Aguila. She continues, “The feeling that I am able to help ease each patient, that they trust me with the care; it is not just their physical suffering, but as a whole.”

Aguila came to Vermont in 2003 as part of a program that brought Filipino nurses to the United States to work in American hospitals in order to combat severe nursing shortages. One of 23 nurses who arrived on July 1, Aguila says, “USA had been hiring nurses since 1960s and an applicant was given an opportunity to be a permanent resident and eventually a citizen. I applied and got the visa as I wanted to work here. Part of it is also for financial reasons. Life was not easy back home and I wanted to help my family. I was able to build a house for my mother and helped my siblings go to school.”

This effort was by no means an easy road. Apart from her husband for over a year, she finally saw him again when she visited the Philippines for three weeks. She returned to Vermont, not knowing at the time, she was carrying her first born, a son. Aguila remembers, “I had him all by myself in a little apartment. Without a car, I walked to work. But I’ve met so many friends along the way that helped me get through it. It was so difficult, especially since my son was premature.” Her husband finally had a chance to meet his child when Aguila and son traveled back to the Philippines on the boy’s first birthday. After five years, Aguila’s husband joined her in Vermont. Showing courage and fortitude, attributes that serve the nursing professional well, Aguila’s says, “It was a long road, but I am very thankful.”

Adsem says of Aguila, “After adapting to life in a new country and passing her nursing licensure exam, Elsa started on Baird 4 in General Medicine as a registered nurse in May 2004.” While there, Adsem reported, “Elsa demonstrated strong nursing skill, incredible work ethic, and sincere empathy for the patients in her care. In 2011, Elsa transitioned to the inpatient oncology unit with a desire to expand her nursing knowledge.”

Aguila is passionate about her current work in oncology at the UVM Medical Center. Her inspiration was because of another aunt, one who died of breast cancer. “I took care of her after I graduated, while she was having chemo for six months,” says Aguila, who notes her aunt survived for ten more years, until succumbing to metastatic bone cancer. She adds, “I can relate with some patients I take care of now.”

Of course, the most challenging part of the profession must be loss. Aguila puts it best, “When I see a dying patient, it is with mixed emotion. When I’ve seen him or her suffering and when they finally accepted everything, it’s sad, but the other part of me is saying, he or she is not suffering anymore.” Beyond medical care, in talking to Aguila, one understands that a big part of a nurse’s job is listening and sometimes, with a painful diagnosis, that can be challenging. But no matter the tears, Aguila puts her patients first. “As a bedside nurse, it is not just physical or medical care,” she says, but care of “their whole being.”

Including being instrumental in the orientation and training of no less than 20 new staff members on Shepardson 4, Adsem says, “Elsa has touched the lives of hundreds of patients and family members through her thoughtful, kind, and highly skilled care.”

Daniel W. Hudson, MSN, RN, Director of Nursing Operations and Resources at the UVM Medical Center says, “Nurses are the hub, connecting everyone and everything together. We celebrate nurses because of their tremendous impact on patients and their families. Elsa’s story represents the best of UVMMC’s dedication.”

UVM Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Kate FitzPatrick, DNP, RN, wrote about National Nurses Week and said, “During this time of national recognition, remember to give thanks to the nurses who have touched your lives. It is a simple act that tells them they are appreciated for what they do.” So whether you cross paths with Aguila herself or another of her ilk, a highly trained caregiver by profession, one that is most likely compassionate and thoughtful, one that either took care of you or someone you love, tell that nurse, “Thank you.” As American historian Stephen Ambrose wrote, “It would not be possible to praises nurses too highly.

SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, Assistant Editor