Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with LPA: Finding One’s Calling
Ingrid Ortiz is a registered nurse who works per diem at Attic Angels Community while teaching full-time at Madison College.
By Jonathan Gramling
When she came to America and Madison as a 21-year-old from her native Bolivia, Ingrid Ortiz had set her eyes on a narrow American Dream. Get an education and make a lot of money. Life and her passion has led her down a different, more caring and fulfilling life.
The only way Ortiz’s mother would let her come to the U.S. is if she lived with family. Her uncle lived in Madison and so she came to Madison to fulfill her dreams and enrolled at Madison College.
“I started my education with English as a Second Language classes,” Ortiz said. “Eventually I ended up just thinking about making money. I ended up in the information technology program. In 2006, I graduated with an associate’s degree. I did that for a couple of years, but it really wasn’t fulfilling. Then I discovered that I wanted something more meaningful for my life.”
Ortiz received career guidance from an unexpected — and almost tragic — source.
“My sister was diagnosed with cancer,” Ortiz said. “She was here. I realized that no one in my family knew how to care for her. We’re very grateful that she overcame it and she is good. But it was a very hard thing for our family. Looking at her when she was in the hospital and all of the great care that she was getting, it really opened my eyes to maybe I could do it. I could learn and help people. That’s how that seed got planted in my head. I decided to change my career. And so I went to school at MATC to take my CNA, certified nursing assistant course and get my certification.”
Ortiz worked as a CNA for seven years. She enjoyed the healing impact that she had on people’s lives.
“I enjoyed so much the one-on-one with patients,” Ortiz said. “It involves so much and I did a few things in nursing because nursing is such a broad thing. I worked in long-term care. I worked with an aged population. It is such an honor caring for veterans. That was very touching, having that connection with a person and helping them. It means a lot. I also worked for Agrace Hospice for two years. As a hospice nurse, I was caring for end-of-life patients of all ages. That was emotional, but very rewarding. It was very special making sure that people were not suffering in their last days of their lives. We had a great team that collaborated who made sure that no just patients, but also families received good care and they weren’t suffering.”
Ortiz decided to go back to school to get her registered nurse license.
“I was very fortunate because my job paid for almost 90 percent of my schooling with the commitment I would stay with them for two years,” Ortiz said. “I thought that was a good opportunity. I didn’t have to take out student loans or anything like that. And after I finished, all I had to do was work for them. I did that and became a registered nurse with my associate’s degree.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ortiz decided to fill her free time with education. And so she returned to school once more. She received her bachelor’s degree in one year, receiving her diploma this past June from Western Governors University. The pandemic was hard on everyone.
“I am happily married,” Ortiz said. “My husband Juan and I have been married for 16 years. We have two kids. Analiese is 14-years-old and my son Juan is 12-years-old. Last year was a tough year for them. But with support, love and patience, we are getting through this. Parents had to have a lot of patience, children too. They were so brave. In many cases, they were more respectful of following rules and recommendations. You didn’t have to fight with children to wear masks. But you have to fight with adults and that was hard to comprehend. But it was the reality.”
Just as Ortiz was finishing her bachelor’s degree, another opportunity opened up for her.
“One of my former instructors who is now one of the directors at MATC, called me one day and said, ‘What do you think about this opportunity,’” Ortiz said. “Have you ever thought about teaching?’ I said, ‘I’m not sure.’ I investigated it a little more. I thought it was a great opportunity to give back in another way. Working as a nurse is very rewarding. You give back and it means a lot. But teaching is a little different. I really have the feeling that I am contributing to the nursing profession by sharing my knowledge and all of the work that we nurses do and sharing that with future nurses.”
And especially since the country is facing a severe nursing shortage, Ortiz will be able to make an impact.
“We have different types of nursing, different levels. MATC is starting a new program called Fellowship,” Ortiz said. “We also have different types of nurses like licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. I teaching in the licensed practical nursing program. At MATC, it is a year program. It’s a year-long course full-time. We take students to clinical rotation. And at the end, they have to take the national boards test to become LPNs. They can continue on to get their RN degree. I am going to explore these pathways to see how I can contribute to the profession, sharing my knowledge and learning from my wonderful instructors. All of them are still there teaching. And so they are my mentors and my guides.”
And Ortiz continues to have an impact outside of the classroom.
“I was able to collaborate with one of the doctors, Dr. Wendy Molaska that I work with at Agrace,” Ortiz said. “We ended up setting up a vaccine clinic focusing on the Latino community in April along with Fitchburg Family Pharmacy and the Literacy Network. We set up a clinic. We ended up vaccinating 155 people. We opened our doors to anyone who was interested in the vaccine, not just Latinos. We had people from all over. I wanted to focus on the immigrant community. It was wonderful because it was a great opportunity to provide education. We had a video. Since the beginning, we had bilingual volunteers helping us every step of the way, so that people really felt informed and safe.”
Just as people have inspired and mentored her, Ortiz will have an impact on nursing in Dane County.
“Nursing is just my calling,” Ortiz said. “It is such a rewarding career. It’s what I love to do. And it is a lifelong learning adventure. In my position now as an instructor, my wish is to not only share my knowledge and expertise, but also inspire future Latina and Latino nurses to join the healthcare workforce because we are truly in need of nurses.”
Patients and the nursing profession couldn’t be in better hands than those of Ingrid Ortiz.