As a single working mom and PhD candidate, Leticia Rios, RN, has balanced many 24/7 challenges, applying lessons learned as a caretaker, clinician, and educator to her mission, helping mothers and babies in underserved communities avoid adverse birth and neonatal outcomes.

Rios received the top honor for Clinical Nursing Excellence from the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council at this year’s Nurse of Excellence Award Ceremony. She was among 23 nominees selected by nurse leaders at hospitals and teaching institutions throughout Long Island.

And now Rios can add another accolade to her list of honors as Daily Nurse’s Nurse of the Week.

We are proud to honor Rios for being an outstanding practitioner, leader, and advocate in the maternal and neonatal health equity field.

The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council cited her service as the nursing professional development specialist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island  and for being a certified neonatal nurse and an internationally board-certified lactation consultant. Rios has helped implement practice changes that lead to quality improvements in the NICU, including achieving more than 1,000 days without a central line bloodstream infection and zero hospital-acquired pressure injuries to date.

As a co-chair of the Black Mothers Matter Committee, “she passionately advocates for maternal health equity locally, regionally, and globally,” says Valerie T. Terzano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, vice president for nursing and patient care services at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island.

Rios, along with other members of the committee, was credited with developing a Holistic Black Birth Nurse Navigator program to improve outcomes and experience for Black birthing patients. The successful pilot has been awarded a research grant from the National Institutes of Health. Rios is also a core New York State Birth Equity Improvement Project member.

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Rios struggled to get support to exclusively breastfeed her daughter after giving birth. Knowing that breastfeeding can reduce maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, the experience prompted her to start a business dedicated to educating and supporting other mothers to meet their breastfeeding goals. She also facilitated a grassroots initiative, Brownsville Baby Café, which provides breastfeeding support for underserved women and addresses food insecurity and other social issues.

As a young person and daughter of immigrants, Rios says navigating academia was challenging. Despite those barriers, the NYU Langone nurse is working on a dissertation for her PhD from Adelphi University. She summed up her passion for being a maternal health advocate with a quote from celebrated neuroscientist Abhijit Naskar: “Injustice on one life is injustice on all lives.”

Nominate a Nurse of the Week! Every Wednesday, DailyNurse.com features a nurse making a difference in the lives of their patients, students, and colleagues. We encourage you to nominate a nurse who has impacted your life as the next Nurse of the Week, and we’ll feature them online and in our weekly newsletter.

Renee Hewitt
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