Patricia Garnica has been a hospital nurse for over 25 years. When she came to New York City from Colombia, she already had a nursing degree from La Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota. She didn’t speak a word of English when she got to the US and studied English after she arrived. After passing the nursing board exams, she got a job as a floor nurse, and then became a nurse manager, on a medical/surgical unit in a Queens hospital.
In 2001, Patricia joined the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center adult inpatient team at New York-Presbyterian (NYP)/Columbia as a diabetes educator, and today she is the team's nurse practitioner.
“Helping each individual patient is like being in a different world each time,” said Patricia when asked what she likes most about her work. “So it is always challenging and I am constantly learning. You can’t get bored doing what I do. Professionally, it is everything I’ve ever dreamed of doing.”
The Berrie Center’s NYP inpatient team consists of two endocrinologists, a diabetes educator and a nurse practitioner, as well as endocrinology fellows in training and rotating students from various disciplines. Together, they see a wide range of patients and work with colleagues from many different specialties within the hospital.
“We see hospitalized patients with a wide-range of problems related to diabetes,” said Patricia, who commutes 1 to 2 hours a day from her Long Island home and is married with two children. “We see patients who are hospitalized for surgery, or cancer treatment, or organ transplantation (such as a kidney transplant or a heart transplant), and have high blood sugar as a secondary problem. There are many factors such as stress, illnesses and medications that can raise the blood sugar, and we are called to see these patients. We also see patients who didn’t know they had diabetes until they were hospitalized for other health problems.”
Patricia became interested in diabetes education after she took a 5-day, continuing education workshop 15 years ago. “I fell in love with diabetes,” recalled Patricia. “I just found every aspect of it fascinating and still do.”
Patricia grew up in Bogota (“I was blessed with a beautiful childhood, always in contact with nature,” Patricia said.) and initially wanted to be a doctor. She enrolled in nursing school, thinking that she would transfer to medical school later on, but found that nursing suited her much better. “I didn’t know it at the time, but I was meant to be a nurse,” she said.
When she was 23, she came to New York, originally to study for a master’s degree, but her life took a different turn. While taking a 6-month intensive English course, she met a family friend who taught English as a second language and offered to help her. As it turned out, those English lessons have lasted nearly 24 years.
“I was told that if I wanted to learn English, I should find a boyfriend who only spoke English,” smiled Patricia, “so I guess I took that advice one step further and ended up with a bilingual husband, a fellow Colombian, and a teacher who took his teaching responsibilities very seriously.”
In 2010, Patricia earned her MS in Advanced Nursing Practice from Seton Hall University.