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Whether you are speaking of geography, education, or career, Johana Torres, RN, BSN, MSN, FNP-C has been on a formidable journey.
Just over two decades ago, Torres moved to New Jersey from Colombia. While she had almost completed an accounting degree in her home country, like many new arrivals, she had to essentially start over when she came to the United States. She began working in a factory while taking English as a second language classes at Ocean Community College, and in 2005, Johana accepted a position as a housekeeper on the Brennan 6 oncology unit at Jersey Shore University Medical Center (JSUMC). She viewed the job as an opportunity for professional growth, as well as a more supportive environment with the benefits and work/life balance she needed as a single mom with a (then) two-year-old daughter.
Three years later, in 2006, Johana completed a Patient Care Technician (PCT) course at JSUMC and began applying for jobs. She shared, “It was hard to find a job as a PCT at that time, but I kept on trying. Finally, Mariebelle Delmundo gave me a chance.”
Delmundo, a certified RN (RNC), BSN, was a nurse manager of what would become Mehandru 5, a telemetry/cardiac step-down floor at JSUMC. She was part of the team that interviewed Johana for her first PCT role, and recalled, “Johana was soft spoken and shy, but I knew we made the right decision to hire her. She always had a genuine smile, which was contagious. She was like a ray of sunshine as she entered the patient’s rooms, showing compassion, empathy and patience.”
With these attributes, she understood almost immediately that Johana had the potential of becoming a great nurse one day. “We encouraged her to enroll in a nursing program and told her that we would support her every step of the way.”
The juggling act begins
Empowered by Delmundo and other JSUMC colleagues, supported by a loving mother, father and brother who also moved from Colombia to New Jersey, and motivated by her own determination and perseverance, Johana enrolled in the nursing program at Ocean Community College. She took advantage of the scholarship opportunities and tuition assistance provided through Hackensack Meridian. Johana credits the flexibility of the program – which allowed her to work every weekend and attend classes during the week – with being able to successfully attain her RN in 2014. Delmundo noted, “Johana worked very hard juggling work, school and family and still continued to do an amazing job as a PCT, all while carrying that contagious smile.”
Shortly after her graduation, Johana applied and was hired to be an RN on the same unit – Mehandru 5. She went on to complete her BSN at Kean University in 2018, obtain national certification as a medical-surgical nurse, and finish her MSN at Chamberlain University in 2021. Johana continued on with her studies while working full time, and most recently completed her Family Nurse Practitioner education and certification. Today, when Johana signs her name, she proudly adds her certified FNP-C to her many credentials.
While Johana faced many challenges along the way, with the support of her family and of course Delmundo, she is proud of her success. When asked what the most rewarding part of her journey has been, Johana said that it’s where she is today. “Being able to accomplish what I did, especially given my language barrier and having to start over in the United States in a completely new field.” As the first one in her family to earn an advanced degree, Johana also said she is proud to serve as a role model for her daughter.
Delmundo, who was honored with the 2021 DAISY Nurse Leader Award at Jersey Shore, still serves as Johana’s manager today. She calls Johana the epitome of Florence Nightingale. “I have seen Johana grow into an amazing nurse through the years. She consistently goes above and beyond while caring for her patients and their families. Angels like her are loved and appreciated by all of us.”
Living her dream
Johana’s favorite part of being a nurse is helping her patients and watching them recover. She said focusing on purpose was especially important throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was so worried about keeping my family safe, but there was no better feeling than watching our COVID patients go home.”
As an FNP, Johana’s goal is to work with disadvantaged communities, particularly those with populations who face language barriers. She wants to provide education and outreach in these communities and ensure everyone has access to high-quality health care and wellness services.
Johana is wholly committed to paying it forward. She serves as a mentor to new nurses and as a charge nurse. Delmundo continued to extol Torres’ dedication: “Her work ethic is commendable and she is a great role model to her colleagues. She prizes honesty and integrity above all else and sets a high standard. Johana demonstrates the 5 C’s in everything she does. I am so very proud of her. Dreams do come true.”
Today, Johana lives in a multigenerational household in Ocean County with her parents, grandparents and daughter. While the past 20+ years have left her with little downtime, Johana says she loves spending time with her family, and recently took a hiking trip to national parks across the United States with friends. To those considering the nursing field, Johana shares, “It is the most rewarding career. You are driven by the heart and get to make a real difference in people’s lives. Surrounded by mentors and colleagues who share that same connection to purpose, and working for an organization so committed to patient care and the growth of their team, I really do feel like I am living my dream.”