For more than 16 years, Mirta Pacheco Arrowsmith loved every minute of her time as a school nurse. But she couldn’t pass up the opportunity a decade ago to work with our Youngstown market’s community health education’s Hispanic Health Program.
The Puerto Rican native, who has lived in Ohio since she was five years old, knew she could have an even deeper impact on an underserved population. As Mirta approaches her retirement on July 31, she reflects on her rewarding career as well as what life has in store for her next.
“I was the first to go to college in my family,” Mirta reveals. “My father had a history of chronic illness, and as a little girl I would go to the doctor’s office with my father to help him with language assistance. That experience inspired me to go into health care to help my Hispanic community.”
For Mirta, language and culture have always been very important to her.
“As a child and young adult, I made it a point to learn to speak Spanish, to study Spanish and to become the best I could with the language of my culture, so I could help others,” she says. “By using the Spanish language to communicate with the clients, it provides them with the best professional and culturally acceptable care”.
Her work within our Hispanic Health Program provides health care assistance to Hispanic and immigrant communities. She was promoted last year to manager of the Hispanic Health & Community Health Programs, which are funded by our Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley. She and five team members help clients with health screenings and basic health education classes while assisting them with navigating the health care system and advocating for them. They provide medical interpreting, arrange appointments and help clients communicate with our primary care teams.
And Mirta’s efforts have been rewarded.
Last fall, she and the Hispanic Health Program received the Health Care Visionary Award from our Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley during the Continuing the Legacy Awards. This award recognized the work this team did to provide clients with COVID-19 education and vaccinations at Hispanic community centers as well as clients’ places of employment.
Mirta appreciates the foundation’s support as well as the leadership of Leigh Greene, our community health education director. Overall, Mirta hopes that seeing someone like her working in the Hispanic community will inspire young Hispanic students to seek careers in the health care field.
“So many Hispanic students are needed to go into the health care field,” she says. “The Hispanic population in the United States is increasing quickly, which means we will need young Hispanic people to become health care workers to assist the growing Hispanic community with their medical needs.”
While she remains devoted to her team members and clients, Mirta’s family have been awaiting her retirement. In fact her husband, Joseph, retired two years ago as a respiratory therapist. Their two children are also in the health care field. Matthew, her son, is a psychiatrist and Samantha, her daughter, is a licensed clinical mental health counselor.
The family presented Joseph with a retirement gift to ride in a hot air balloon in New Mexico. They held off until Mirta’s retirement and now have the Albuquerque Balloon Festival on their calendars for this fall. As of now, Joseph and Samantha will be sailing into the sky, while Mirta may be an appreciative observer from the solid ground.
Mirta and Joseph have other sites they want to see. They’d like to travel across the U.S. and to Europe. They fortunately squeezed in a trip to Spain right before COVID-19 hit, and now look forward to visiting Italy.
“I love their history, I want to see their architecture and I love the food,” Mirta says of Italy.
During retirement, Mirta also hopes to spend more time with sewing and crafts. One of the projects in store is scrapbooking. Undoubtedly, some of the memories she captures will include how she has spent the past 10 years.
“It’s bittersweet to be retiring because I love what I do with the Hispanic Health program,” she says. “It has been a privilege to work with our Hispanic clients and serve those affected by the social determinants of health. We are carrying out the Mission of Mercy Health, and it’s been so rewarding.
Not only is National Nurses Month in May, but National Nurses Week is May 6 to May 12.
To all our nurses, we thank you for the excellent care you provide our patients every day! Read more of our nurses’ stories to celebrate.
Also, if you’re a nurse or a health care professional, we invite you to explore and pursue a career with us.