Always Learning, Always Caring: A Nurse’s Story
“I wanted to be an engineer, but my mom wanted me to be a nurse,” recalls Aida Salita, who has cared for patients for more than 10 years as a volunteer at the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California. “This was back in the Forties and Fifties when there weren’t many women going into engineering.”
Aida took her mother’s advice and attended the University of the Philippines before gaining valuable work experience at Far Eastern University Hospital School of Nursing in Manila.
“I was a hospital nurse for just over 42 years,” notes Aida, as she fondly reflects on her time at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose (21 years) and then at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco (21 years). When she “retired” from hospital nursing she quickly found another outlet for her compassionate talents, only this time at the Order of Malta Clinic. “My friend JoAnne Curran and I read about the Order of Malta Clinic in The Catholic Voice newspaper,” Aida recalls. The two friends decided to volunteer together, and both are still at the clinic almost 11 years later.
“My favorite aspect of the clinic is that we help everyone, including those with no insurance,” Aida says. “Some of my patients have told me more than once that they prefer our clinic to other free clinics. They say they have been cured here when no one else could help them in the same way.”
During her hospital career, Aida worked as a labor and delivery nurse, providing love and care for both mother and baby. Although she no longer sees pregnant patients in her work at the clinic, she will always have a passion for this very special field. Since volunteering at the clinic, Aida has enjoyed the opportunity to grow even further in her profession. She has learned to give immunizations, test blood sugars and master the nuances of an EKG. Aida and her fellow nurses have the opportunity to confer with the doctors, collaborating as partners to determine the best approaches to a patient’s care. This collaboration opens up new pathways of knowledge and in turn, new ways to help and heal others.
“I truly love all that I learn here,” Aida says. “Each day it is something new. I deal with the intake of patient symptoms and complaints, and am always acquiring new skills. I have gotten to work on so many interesting things related to blood pressure, urinalysis, diabetes and EKGs. We help the doctors with patient exams, and it is particularly fulfilling because we do such a variety of things. In a hospital, there is a lot more staff; but here we do it all ourselves.”
Aida also belongs to St. Vincent de Paul and helps to feed the poor as part of the ministry. “I like helping people. Whether I am feeding the homeless or caring for Order of Malta Clinic patients, volunteering gives me a feeling of fulfillment. I enjoy the camaraderie of the other three RN volunteers and we like to share news of our families with one another. With my husband having passed, this is a way for me to be with other people, out of the house and serve the community.”
Aida also likes being able to help in the role of translator. Her Filipino dialect of Tagalog is a comfort to many of her patients because she can speak to them in their own language.
Her favorite part about being an integral part of the Order of Malta Clinic? Aida shares her passion for giving back this way: “Mother Teresa is an inspiration. It doesn’t matter what religion you are because you are treated the same. Helping the poor is part of our Catholic tradition and the Order of Malta Clinic is a wonderful way to honor that heritage.”