My journey into the nursing profession was not exactly straight forward, yet at the same time, I felt I was moving towards it all along, I just didn’t know it at the time. I have always had a desire to blend health and education, and that ultimately played out in my educational pursuits. Those pursuits first led me to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where I completed my first degree in Education with a minor in Spanish.
I was also pre-med and thought my end goal was to be a Pediatrician. However, once I graduated, I didn’t feel settled that the medicine route would allow me to live out the holistic vision I had to health. I had been introduced to Nursing early in my undergraduate career during a summer science program, and immediately, the profession had resonated with me. Yet, I just didn’t realize it was what I had been looking for all along.
Unfortunately, I also felt external and internal pressure to follow through with the medicine route, as it was the only thing I had talked about since childhood. So, I let nursing slip past me. And although I always wonder if my journey would look different if I had embraced the Nursing profession right away, I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything in the world. It has truly led me to be a visionary in my approach to the future and ultimately has led me to the present I am experiencing today.
So, I took those pre-med classes, I even took the MCATs, but I wasn’t convinced, and I surely didn’t want to dive into more years of school (and debt) with that much uncertainty. After I graduated with my first degree, I decided to take a step back, and develop another passion of mine, the Spanish language.
I have always had this deep love for the Hispanic culture (and probably why I married a wonderful Puerto Rican man!), and found myself trying to learn (and teach myself) Spanish from a young age.
And, in addition to completing a Minor in college, I spent every opportunity I had to travel throughout Latin America – from the Dominican Republic to Mexico – and ultimately ended up living and working in Guatemala for nearly three years.
Having a culturally diverse background with a Caribbean-borne mother and Naval Veteran father, my interest to travel the world piqued at an early age. And this wanderlust perspective to life also pushed me to focus on cultural competency and sensitivity as a key to establishing effective relationships with anyone I encountered. And once I became a healthcare provider that also translated into my approach to patients and families.
While in Guatemala, I had the opportunity to work with a Student Immersion program called – Somos Hermanos (“We are Brothers”), where I participated in, and later led as an In-Country Coordinator. During my time with that organization, I also became intimately connected with Primeros Pasos (“First Steps”), a grassroots health organization that provided community-focused, collaborative care to the 10,000 community members in the area.
My experience with that organization opened the door to my understanding of healthcare outside the Western system, and also the importance of community involvement when designing and executing health interventions. The lessons I learned showed me what sustainability in care looked like: through building trust, being innovative, and being person-focused in the most compassionate and empathetic ways.
And it was in those moments, when I was hiking to rural villages, tucked away from prying eyes, and sometimes, necessary medical resources, that I found myself searching for the profession that would help me gain the clinical skills, but also a holistic approach to care I was searching to provide.
As much as I loved being in Guatemala, and had culturally ingrained myself in the Guatemalan lifestyle, after year two there, I started coming to the point where I had to ask myself, “am I permanently living in Guatemala for the rest of my life, or will I find this “thing” that will soothe the gnawing feeling that there’s more to complete?” And, in my soul-searching (and Google searching), funny enough, Nursing is what screamed loud and clear during my times of spotty Wi-fi and daily tremors from living on a fault line in the highlands of Guatemala.
Yet, once I had my epiphany, I found myself suddenly encountering nurses at every twist and turn during the remainder of my Guatemalan tenure. I immediately started researching requirements to enter Nursing school, and recognizing it was finally time to pack my bags and leave the country and “family” I had come to call home to pursue the next step in my life’s mission. Those steps, led me to the University of Pennsylvania, whose slogan was “Dare to Change the World” – just the place I had been searching for.
While in school, again, I found myself feeling more focused and alive, because I felt I was finally starting to grasp who I truly wanted to be for others. During my time at the University of Pennsylvania, I felt a sense of cohesiveness about myself, and my pursuits. I also continued to find opportunities to embrace Global Health and further strengthened the direction I had started on while living in Central America. I completed my second bachelor’s degree in Nursing, and soon after, completed my Masters in Science in Pediatric Primary Care with a minor in Global Health Nursing.
Yet, like always, although I felt I was finally embracing what I had been looking for, there wasn’t complete closure with just clinical care. Throughout nursing school, I also encountered opportunities to dive into community health on an urban level, as well as dabbled in the world of business and technology through Invention competitions.
In those moments, where I performed 90-second elevator pitches before crowds of tech industry leaders, and devised board games for youth detention centers with a team of nurses, I recognized, for the umpteenth time, another piece of myself, I was an innovator, and I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed applying what I learned in the clinical arena in settings that weren’t typical hospital settings. And although nursing was bringing together this longing I had for delivering holistically compassionate care, I wanted to take it one step further. And this always seemed to ooze out of every fiber of my being.
During my first Nurse Practitioner job, I found myself developing an Oral Health Program and joining hospital-wide daily management teams to change hospital policy, all while juggling the huge learning curve of being a provider. In another job, I found myself wanting to take on more community health education roles, as I felt stifled in the less-than-realistic appointment times I had as a primary care provider in an economically and socially challenged area.
And this journey even led to me to where I am today, in rural South Carolina, where my husband (God bless him!), agreed to pack up our lives in Philadelphia and re-locate here to develop a Community Health Initiative focused on collaboratively impacting access to care and health outcomes on a community level.
Of course, that risky leap has been nothing short of easy. I originally thought I was going to continue working clinically, while I developed this Community Health Initiative, and dove into networking in the local area. And like a good nurse, I set out to assess and understand what resources were available. What I quickly found out is that small, rural town life, with already major challenges to access to care, also had challenges to employment. And though I applied for job after job, I kept coming up short.
In our effort to survive, I also started to quickly learn that I had something else to offer. After years of a diverse educational background, experience abroad, and just my own innovative approach to health, I held a solution to a much bigger issue. My understanding of self and my desire to see more than just “tradition” dictate how I lived life and delivered care, led me before hospital CEOs, business boards, and university classrooms. I realized that I needed to create what I was hoping to implement. And I also needed to find a way to encourage others in the area as well.
After all of that, I also finally realized something: nursing wasn’t just my profession, it was a resource – my tool to doing something I had been living out – whether I realized it or not – being a visionary leader.
At that moment (between struggling to make ends meet, and being driven by a passion to change community health in the area), I started learning and investigating what it meant to be an entrepreneur, to utilize and leverage my skills, and to think “outside the box” when it came to health and healthcare delivery. I started to learn to process failures and rejections as tools to advance myself and learn.
And, throughout this journey, I also kept being “gifted” with the opportunity to encourage, motivate, and guide other nurses (and colleagues across disciplines) through how I processed my own struggles and successes. What I also didn’t realize was that I enjoyed it, and it seemed to help the people I encountered.
So, in the process of going from clinician to business owner, I launched a branding, known as Visionary Nurse™, in an effort to encourage, inspire, and motivate other nursing professionals to be visionary in their approach to impacting healthcare and other sectors. And for nearly two years, I started creating reflections of my own visionary journey, and ultimately designed a compilation of my inspirational musings in order to connect with others who are looking to make an impact on a bigger scale. Thusly, Visionary Nurse: 90-days of Inspirational Musings on being Influentially Visionary was born.
In an effort to gain exposure as a Community health Consultant and Mentor and Coach for Nurses, I created this e-book to serve as a tool to encourage and influence others to be visionary in their own spheres of influence in order to holistically impact health and other sectors for the better. I also found out that I was gaining the opportunity to carry out my desire to create effective and sustainable change in the lives of children and their families, by impacting the health of the community, as well as the health of the providers, as an opportunity to leverage available resources through strategic collaboration.
Finally reaching present day, this journey has put me in adjunct nursing positions, where I have the opportunity to shape the future of nursing to come. It is giving me an opportunity to work as a Coach & Mentor for Nurses, with the mission to be a figurehead for nurse professionals and students on vision and leadership. And it is allowing me to be a Community Health Consultant, where I work with organizations to strategically design and implement community-focused health interventions and programs within their sphere of influence, while also simultaneously executing my own mission through our Montalvo International Community Health Initiative.
Simply put – I am committed to seeing others become a “visionary leader,” live out their own dreams, and transform the landscape of their community or sphere of influence. And I am passionately dedicated to helping you live a life of purpose and influence. May you dare to be inspired, and may you dare to be a truly visionary nurse.
Antonette’s mission has been to collaboratively and innovatively transform access to care through community-focused interventions, as well as inspire other nursing professionals to also be innovative in how they deliver healthcare and apply their nursing skillset. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or Facebook. You can also find her on LinkedIn.
About the Author: Antonette Montalvo is a wife and mother, board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Owner of Antonette Montalvo Consulting and Coaching Services – where she serves as a Community Health Consultant and Coach and Mentor for Nurses, and co-founder of Montalvo International Community Health Initiative – a community-focused project committed to addressing the health disparities seen in vulnerable communities. She is also a published author, and just released her first e-book entitled: Visionary Nurse: 90-days of Inspirational Musings on being Influentially Visionary. Her e-book is designed to inspire and motivate nurses to be innovative in their approach to the profession, and it has been inspired by her own journey in becoming a “visionary nurse.” You can download a copy of her book, or learn more, at: www.visionarynurse.com