Monica Lozaga, R.N., M.S.N.-ED., CCRN, CNRN
Lozaga is responsible for designing education curriculum, continuing education, competency and simulation programs, and overseeing orientations for more than 1,000 nurses and also for the other non-nursing colleagues. “We have to try to keep 1,000 nurses educated and up-to-date on everything, as well as our non-nursing staff,” said Lozaga, “as well as competent and in compliance on safety. It’s a very challenging job. But I love it because of the challenge and because I love nursing and education. I’m not at the bedside, but I feel as though I still have an influence on what goes on there. I’m very concerned with quality nursing care and general hospital clinical/non-clinical operations.”
Lozaga knows first-hand about what it means to be in the healing hands of skilled, compassionate nurses. “I was in a really bad car accident when I was 17,” said Lozaga. “I was in the hospital for three months and the nurses who cared for me were absolutely fabulous. I wanted to be one of those people for someone in such need.
“I remember one nurse in particular,” said Lozaga, “who wore one of those beehive hairdos with a cap that tipped off the front of it, and horn-rimmed glasses. After she had dispensed meds, she’d come back to sit with me. She’d brush my hair and tell me what was going on in her son’s life. It helped me feel connected to the outside world, since it was so isolating to be hospitalized for that long as a teenager.”
Lozaga went on to earn her R.N. from the Helene Fuld School of Nursing in Trenton, NJ; a B.S.N. in 2004 through Immaculata’s ACCEL program; an M.S.N.-Ed. from the University of Phoenix; and she is resuming work on a doctorate in nursing practice with an education focus at Drexel University beginning August 2013.
According to Lozaga, “IU was the best academic experience I ever had. I love that it’s faith-based and the Sisters have set the tone. It’s all about caring and helping people succeed, and it’s the first school I had ever heard of that really embraced adult learners.
“I love Gail Lehner, who’s in charge of holistic nursing studies,” said Lozaga. “I started out thinking the holistic thing was bunk. I was all about the science. Then I had my first Reiki session and it completely changed my mind. Now I even teach holistic nursing studies as an adjunct.”
Lozaga is a firm believer in staying centered and quiet as she meets the demands of her day. “Gail told me to ‘turn your white light on, the light of God will surround you, you will be enveloped in that light.’” Lozaga uses that visualization and meditation whenever she needs it. “It helps to calm me down, and it prevents any negativity from becoming a drain.”
In addition to staying grounded, Lozaga’s responsibility for multiple education initiatives covering everything from new HIV screening protocols, new medications, labeling, equipment, and policies, to instruction in online documentation and proper following of advance directives, requires almost supernatural organizational skills.
“I have to be really organized,” said Lozaga, “and my staff appreciates that.”
The Joint Commission (JC) also expressed its appreciation. “They couldn’t believe our record keeping and they were impressed with the volume of education we provide here for our nurses. We have classes on everything under the sun and the Joint Commission representatives were overwhelmed by our nurses saying how they receive so much information. That just meant so much to me and my department,” said Lozaga.
“The most rewarding part of what I do is when nurses call me and tell me how much they’ve learned from a class, or when I read evaluations and nurses comment how something we’ve offered has changed and improved their practice.”
Before Lozaga was hired at St. Mary Medical Center, she was corporate director of education development and research for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitals in New Jersey. “Like the Lourdes hospitals,” said Lozaga, “St. Mary is part of Catholic Health East,” an organization that has 34 different facilities stretching from Maine to Florida.
“St. Mary is very pro-education. It’s such a supportive environment because it’s all about having the best nursing staff ever and our patient satisfaction scores reflect that. Nurses here are honored and they know how much they’re appreciated.”
Lozaga takes deep satisfaction in her work, but added, “I really love the classroom. I love to teach. Maybe someday I’ll transition to a totally academic setting, but not just yet.”
For now, Lozaga is in the midst of creating a new academic center that features a simulation lab with SimMan 3G, an auditorium, classroom, equipment room and offices. “We’re excited,” she said. “We will be able to offer our nurses, our allied health professionals, non-clinical staff and our community so much more.”