The Hispanic and Latinx population continues to grow, and so do the healthcare disparities these communities face. Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a reminder of the importance of a diverse nursing workforce who understand these healthcare challenges and are uniquely positioned to help address them.
That’s why alumna Veronica Sampayo ’13 established the Clinician Life Scholarship in Support of Hispanic Nurse Practitioners at the UCF College of Nursing.
“The scholarship support I received was invaluable, and I’m excited to be able to pay it forward to help make the journey easier for other Hispanic nurses seeking to advance their career and become the leaders our patients need,” she says.
Breaking Down Language Barriers
Sampayo’s parents are from Colombia, and she was born in Orlando. In her clinical practice as a nurse practitioner, she was often asked to speak to Hispanic patients.
One time, Sampayo says, a patient made an observation, “No te gusta hablar español, ¿verdad?” (“You don’t like speaking Spanish, do you?”). While Sampayo grew up understanding Spanish, she was not fluent and admitted, she did not like speaking Spanish only because she was unsure about her language skills.
The man told her, in Spanish, that he was only going to speak Spanish to her. Sampayo realized that making the effort was more important than getting the words right, and she soon became proficient.
That effort makes a difference. According to the Pew Research Center, 44% of Hispanic Americans cite communication problems from language or cultural differences as the major reason why Hispanic people have generally worse health outcomes than other adults in the U.S.
Increasing Diverse Providers
Language and cultural barriers are just one of the factors impacting the health of the Hispanic population. They face less access to quality care, less access to preventative care, a lack of health insurance, as well as social and environmental factors. Nurse practitioners — especially Hispanic nurse practitioners — can help address these challenges.
The idea of becoming a nurse practitioner was always in Sampayo’s nursing career plans, she says, because she liked the idea of having more autonomy when it came to taking care of her patients.
“As nurse practitioners continue to expand access to high quality healthcare across the country, I want to do my part in supporting diversity in healthcare and supporting the future of nursing in my community.”
Nurse practitioners are more likely to provide care where there is need, such as rural and underserved communities according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. A recent study showed that 25% of nurse practitioners cared for limited proficiency in English patients.
But across the U.S., and especially in Florida, the growth of Hispanic nurses and nurse practitioners has not kept pace with the growth of Hispanic and Latinx communities. In the U.S., those communities represent 18% of the population and 25% of the population in Florida. According to the most recent data, it is estimated that 9.2% of nurse practitioners are Hispanic in the U.S. In Florida, 15% of nurse practitioners are Hispanic.
“As nurse practitioners continue to expand access to high quality healthcare across the country, I want to do my part in supporting diversity in healthcare and supporting the future of nursing in my community,” says Sampayo.
Nursing Career Inspired by Family
A career in nursing wasn’t in the initial plans for Sampayo who originally majored in business. When her husband — a military veteran — was diagnosed with cancer, the couple relocated from Kentucky to Tampa, Florida, to be closer to their parents for support and to receive his treatment at a VA hospital.
“I met some amazing nurses there,” Sampayo says. “One nurse practitioner was especially helpful and suggested that because my husband was so young, it might be a good idea to make provisions for any future children we wanted to have through cryobanking. It was typically not covered by the military, but she advocated all the way up the channels to the general to get it covered.”
Sampayo and her husband, Elijah Rivera, who recovered completely from cancer, now have two beautiful daughters, Arielle and Madelynn.
“I can’t thank that nurse practitioner enough for caring for Elijah, for me, and for our family,” Sampayo says. “In that moment, I began to feel that nursing was my calling, and I wanted to be that hero for somebody.”
Sampayo returned to school to become a nurse, first earning an associate’s degree in nursing (ASN) at Valencia and a few years later, earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) at UCF in the online RN to BSN program. After graduation, began her career as an oncology nurse. But after a few years — and the birth of their first child — her husband suggested she return to school to become a nurse practitioner.
“He’s always been the most encouraging person, especially when it came to my career,” Sampayo says.
“We just made it work,” Sampayo says, shaking her head and smiling at the memory of those difficult years. Because finances were a concern, she researched the possibility of financial aid for her DNP degree and in her last semester, was awarded a scholarship.
After a few years of clinical practice, she landed a manager position in a large hospital system that had begun restructuring its advanced practice provider program. But when Rivera’s mother passed away suddenly, she moved to private practice to focus more on her family and future career plans.
Helping Nurses Reach Their Potential
“It’s important to me that nurses receive opportunities to reach their highest potential and practice to the highest extent of their license and training,” she says. “I began to develop a business that could help nurses and nurse practitioners as they forged their own trails in healthcare.”
“It’s important to me that nurses receive opportunities to reach their highest potential and practice to the highest extent of their license and training.”
She started by offering resume services. As a manager, she noticed there were vast differences in the quality of resumes she received and wanted to help level the playing field. Sampayo has grown her business to a point that it’s now her full-time job, and now can be more than a mentor to nurse practitioners but also help support future nurse practitioners at UCF financially with a scholarship.
“This has aways been our focus, ever since that early experience with the nurse practitioner at the VA, to meeting all the amazing faculty members and students, and then receiving my own scholarship in graduate school,” she says. “We are so grateful for this opportunity, and we can’t wait to meet our scholarship recipients.”
“Orlando is my forever home. I want to invest in the development of diversity in the same community in which my family and I receive healthcare,” says Sampayo. “I also want to invest in the community in which I serve as a clinician. This is why I joined the UCF Alumni College of Nursing Chapter Board as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion co-chair — because I want to be a part of bringing and supporting diversity within our community.”
If you would like to contribute to the Clinician Life Scholarship in Support of Hispanic Nurse Practitioners or other nursing student scholarships at the UCF College of Nursing, please click here.