Blanza Honored with Essence of Nursing Award
Roger Blanza gathers with his colleagues on the unit.
“Let me make someone’s life better today, even if it’s in some small way.”
These words echo in Roger Blanza’s mind as he leaves home to care for patients and their families at BWH. His colleagues and patients can attest that he fulfills his goal every time he walks through the doors of the Cardiac Surgery ICU. Typically, Blanza is darting around to assist nurses and care providers with questions, precepting nursing students and those new to the unit and cutting patients’ hair or giving them a shave to help them look and feel their best.
“The focus of why we are all here is the patient,” said Blanza, who received this year’s Essence of Nursing Award—the Department of Nursing’s highest honor. “I try to do everything I can to make a patient feel better – if that means clearing the clutter in their room or giving them a haircut, I do it. It makes them happy, and it’s what fulfills me.”
These caring practices are just part of who he is as a nurse. With 33 years of experience, Blanza is an expert nurse who has practiced in virtually every ICU setting. His clinical skills are firmly rooted in evidence-based practice, and he possesses an intimate understanding of the needs of his patients, as well as their family members. Described by his nominators as “high-spirited and positive,” Blanza is devoted to his own ongoing learning and to sharing his rich knowledge with new nurses, students, physicians and every other member of the care team.
“Roger is ethically and morally dedicated to providing the best possible care to his patient, encompassing the whole-being, including the family unit,” Lisa Comis, RN, wrote in Blanza’s nomination for the Essence of Nursing Award. “He is a strong patient advocate who will always challenge the health care team with what he feels is the right thing to do for the patient.”
An Unwavering Patient Advocate
Roger Blanza cares for a patient in the Cardiac Surgery ICU.
Recently, a patient Blanza was caring for was to be transferred to the step-down unit from the ICU. Blanza disagreed with the team’s transfer plan.
“Roger said the patient would benefit from another day in the ICU so that his respiratory status could improve,” said Maria Bentain-Melanson, MSN, RN, CCRN, CSC, nurse educator for the Cardiac Surgery ICU. “The patient and his wife heard about Roger’s conversation with the care team and thanked him for advocating for them.”
Blanza’s resident and attending physician colleagues have confidence in his judgment and understanding of his patients’ needs.
“I have absolute trust that Roger will do the right thing for my patients,” wrote Gregory Couper, MD, in a letter of support. “In addition to the strength of his clinical acumen in this field, he embodies many positive personality characteristics that enable him to care so effectively for our patients.”
With his advanced skills, Blanza is frequently assigned to care for some of the unit’s most critical patients. “The patients and their families often describe a feeling of relief when they know Roger is their nurse,” said Tower 8 Nursing Director Matt Quin, MSN, RN, who previously was the director of Shapiro 6 West. “They feel Roger takes care of them as if they were part of his own family. He clearly establishes a bond with them.”
Recently, a patient and his family members were extremely anxious and having trouble trusting staff. Blanza began caring for the patient, quickly assessed their needs and set out to develop strong trust with them. “That was truly the turning point of their stay in the ICU,” Quin said. “He provided them with the continuity of a trusting environment they required to feel safe and well cared about.”
Blanza, who is originally from the Philippines, is also known for his ability to create a safe and trusting environment for patients of all cultures and backgrounds. He earned his bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Pangasinan in the Philippines, and then practiced as a nurse for two years in Saudi Arabia before coming to the U.S.
“It was another experience for me with a different culture,” said Blanza of his time in Saudi Arabia.
The Department of Nursing honored Blanza for providing culturally competent care to all of his patients with the 2011 Asian/Pacific Islander Award.
Passion for Teaching the Next Generation
Tantamount to Blanza’s love of caring for patients is his passion for teaching. Since joining the Cardiac Surgery ICU, Blanza has precepted more than half of the new nurses as they were oriented to the unit.
“New nurses who have the fortune of orienting with Roger are well equipped to provide care to patients upon completion of their orientation,” said Quin. “His nurse colleagues and physicians routinely confer with Roger regarding patient management issues. In fact, all of his peers express relief to know he is on duty.”
The learning goes both ways, says Blanza. “We can learn from young nurses just out of school,” he said. “I don’t know everything; nursing is a continuous learning process.”
He remembers a night at Boston Medical Center 20 years ago where he began helping a medical intern. “I taught him how to do simple ABGs, place an IV and lines and figure out what drips to give,” Blanza said. “Other nurses weren’t as accommodating to him and didn’t offer to help him learn.”
The intern was thankful, and so was Roger, 10 years later. “My mother-in-law was sick, and I brought her to BMC,” he said. “The intern had become an attending by that point, and he helped facilitate her admission to the CCU. Within a day, she had been implanted with a pacemaker.”
That example helped shape Blanza’s philosophy on teaching the practice. “Experienced nurses need to teach students and orientees everything we know. If I get sick, I want to know that the next generation of care providers will be able to take care of me.”
Getting to Know Roger Blanza
A Cut Above: Blanza often brings in his own clippers to offer haircuts to his patients. Staff on other units who get wind of Blanza’s special talents have called in favors, asking Blanza to cut their patients’ hair. Knowing how a haircut and shave can make a patient feel so much better, Blanza would fit in these special appointment requests. “Roger clearly establishes a bond with these patients,” Quin said. “Patients and families often return to the unit after discharge to look for him and share what a great nurse he was.”
Family Values: Blanza’s love of nursing and patient care is contagious. Three of his four children are nurses, and his wife attended nursing school. “They probably see how happy I am,” Blanza said.
Hard Work: Blanza lived away from his wife and children for 10 years after he came to Boston. They remained in the Philippines while he worked to get settled and purchase a home for them. “I wanted to give them a better future,” he said. Today, Blanza works just as hard, balancing a scheduled 36 hours at BWH each week with another 24 at Boston Medical Center. “I have worked very hard for my family,” he said. “I always said that I could die the happiest man if they all finish college.”
Essence of Nursing Nominators: Roger Blanza was nominated by his colleague, Lisa Comis, RN, and nurse educator Maria Bentain-Melanson, MSN, RN, CCRN, CSC, with support from then-director Matt Quin, MSN, RN.