When I went to the Center for STI testing and primary care services as a teenager, I would have a male nurse who was African American, gay, confident, and professional.
I was newly out and not fully embracing my queer identity. But because I could identify with the nurses’ race, gender, and sexual orientation, the anxiety I had about coming to Center for services would resolve in his presence.
When I became a nurse years later, I felt a calling to start my career and represent my community in a setting that only the Center could provide. I hoped to make other young, queer minorities feel comfortable in a health setting—in the same way that nurse did for me.
The Center has provided a place for me to grow and accept my most authentic self. Professionally, I have been challenged in ways I could have never anticipated. Every day I am surrounded by people who love themselves and don’t shy away from self-expression. This has given me the space and opportunity to do the same. These are all good things.
The staff here is a reflection of the community it serves. We are a melting pot of queer, straight, gender non-conforming, trans, black, brown, and every other descriptive you can imagine.
Since the COVID-19 crisis hit Southern California, I am proud to say that my team has remained both hands-on and face-to-face with patients every day.
Primary Care Services has switched primarily to telehealth. Many nurses are working from home and the Sexual Health Program has reduced intake numbers. But the reality is, patients still need access to laboratory services. People are sick, people are still having sex, and people still need testing for many health factors outside of COVID-19.
We’ve had to get creative with social distancing requirements. The lab technicians have done a great job converting exam rooms to draw stations. We are wearing N95 masks and donning extra Patient Protective Equipment (PPE) before every patient encounter. We have also stepped out of the laboratory to team up with volunteers from other departments to help screen incoming patients.
When all this is over, I will never forget the new relationships and friendships formed. Working with the staff from outside of Health Service has allowed me to have interactions that would have never happened outside of this space and time.
Hometown: Riverside, California
Year Started Working at Center: January 2019
Staff Position: Lab Supervisor, Vocational Nurse