If you were to follow Raymond “Ray” Quinones-Ortega, R.N. around
his workplace, a few lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”
might come to mind:
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs . . .
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting . . .”
As Clinical Leader for the Southeast Georgia Health System
Surgical Services Department, Quinones-Ortega maintains a calm demeanor during this unsettling
time. He acts as a type of air traffic controller, overseeing the surgical
schedule for regular and emergency procedures, checking COVID-19 test
results to clear patients for surgery and keeping things organized and
running on time. “I make sure the runway is clear,” he says.
Patients and co-workers who interact with Quinones-Ortega appreciate the
role he plays beyond his job description. “All of the patients are
so worried about COVID. One was really scared and didn’t speak much
English. Because I speak Spanish, I was able to reassure her in her own
language,” he explains.
“Ray is the heart beat of the OR, ready to step in anytime day or
night, wherever he is needed,” describes Lana Gladhill, MSN, MBA,
NE-BC, director, Surgical Services. “His clinical knowledge of surgical
nursing is second to none and his enthusiasm is contagious to all he meets.
I’m truly blessed to have him on my Surgical Leadership Team.
His ability to comfort others is grounded in trust. Quinones-Ortega taught
a class showing Health System employees the proper way to use personal
protective equipment (PPE). “Because of the precautions we’re
taking, no employees involved in COVID surgeries have been infected yet.
We applied the knowledge learned during the Ebola and H1N1 virus outbreaks.
We know it’s 100% effective. I’ve worked with all but two
COVID patients and I’m still safe. I feel secure in my knowledge
and believe I convey a sense of calm to my co-workers.”
A Destiny Fulfilled
Quinones-Ortega followed the footsteps of his grandmother and uncle, who
both worked in health care. “They loved helping others. Working
in this field gives you the opportunity to experience so many things.
I would tell anyone interested in this profession, ‘COME ON! We
need the help.’”
Prior to graduating from the College of Coastal Georgia, he worked as a
surgical technologist for 11 years. He launched his nursing career nine
years ago. “I became a nurse because I have a passion to help others
and always knew I was destined to do just that. I love my job because
I can save a life and guide others to help.” All in all, he has
22 years of experience working in the medical field.
“I love seeing Ray working the OR board when I round in Surgery,”
says Judi Henson, R.N., BSN, MSA, vice president, Patient Care Services.
He always greets me with a big cheerful smile! He stays calm and is so
reassuring to the surgeons, patients and all of the OR team. Ray is one
of the most positive people that I know.”
His favorite aspect of working for the Health System is the opportunity
to make a difference. “I love working with the Health System because
of the diversity of people and duties. You touch so many lives.”
That might mean comforting a patient in her own language, or putting co-workers
at ease. He instills calm in both newly-hired nurses and doctors. When
a doctor asked how he remained so calm and happy, he replied, “This
is what we have to do. I’m here for you.”
A Group Effort
Reflecting on the changes wrought by COVID-19, Quinones-Ortega is realistic,
yet determined. “The virus doesn’t discriminate. It can be
extinguished, but we have to mitigate it worldwide. Everybody has to be
on the same page.”
Apart from his personal sacrifices – Quinones-Ortega is unable to
visit his elderly parents – he is one of many health care workers
making heroic efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Those of us not
employed in the medical profession also have a role to play. “I
would ask anyone reading this to please help protect our vulnerable populations.
Be mindful that others might not be as healthy as you and me. Stay safe
and let’s all come together to learn to navigate this new era.”
For more information on COVID-19 and how to protect yourself and your loved
sghs.org/covid-19. For individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including but not limited
to unexplained cough, fever, and shortness of breath, call the Health
System’s screening hotline: 912-466-7222.