Merari S., RN, BSN
Remember the iconic BAYADA TV commercial that aired in the late 1990s? Merari will never forget it. It showed Nurse Lisa getting into her car in a heavy rainstorm and driving at night to reach her client who was sitting alone in his wheelchair, waiting by the window. Would she arrive? To the visible relief of the client, of course she did, and with a smile.
“I dreamed that would be me someday,” says Merari. “And now, here I am—working for BAYADA Home Health Care—and it’s the best profession I could ever imagine.”
Merari’s journey to nursing may sound simple, yet it was anything but. It was often challenging, but it made her strong and determined, and shaped her into the kind of nurse she is today.
Growing up too soon
At 10 years old, Merari came to New Jersey from Puerto Rico along with her mother and three younger siblings. Although she was happy to be here, she had a tough childhood. Her mother had an undiagnosed mental illness and couldn’t properly care for the family. So, by the young age of 13, Merari become the protector and primary caregiver for her siblings.
During those difficult days, she dared not dream big; she just focused on getting through each day and working hard to make it through high school. But, the responsibilities she assumed at a young age opened her heart and mind to nursing. “Having been my family’s caregiver, I loved the caring and compassionate nature of the nursing profession and knew I wanted that as my career—someday, somehow,” shares Merari.
Nursing her dream
Eventually, Merari got married, had two beautiful children, and with her husband’s support, was able to go to night school and become an RN. She achieved her goal—and now it was time to put it into action.
Her first job was in the respiratory unit of a hospital. Although she found caring for patients with tracheostomies and ventilators initially very stressful, the experience opened the door to BAYADA in 2011, where she became her own version of Nurse Lisa.
It wasn’t long before her managers recognized her natural leadership abilities and promoted her to a clinical manager, where she oversaw caregiving teams. “As a BAYADA Clinical Manager, I had the opportunity to take my skills up a notch and teach others, too. Turns out one of my happiest memories as a nurse was training a team of field nurses how to do trach/vent management at the bedside of our client who recently received a tracheostomy. I felt like I came full circle and could give back to the nurses who were like me when I was younger,” remembers Merari.
Reaching for more
Today, Merari holds two roles at BAYADA: she is a Clinical Operations Manager and a Transitional Care Manager (TCM). As clinical operations manager, she mentors clinical managers, often participating in home visits and helping them grow in their careers. As a TCM, she works closely with referral sources, such as rehabilitation hospitals, to safely transition people home. Many of these clients have complex conditions such as spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries and need specialized care to thrive at home. To better understand their needs and the highly skilled care they require, Merari is pursuing her CRRN—Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse—which she expects to earn in June 2019.
And as if Merari’s not busy enough, she works two 12-hour shifts at a hospital on the weekends!
“I still work at a hospital, too, but I love home care because I feel appreciated by the families we serve and by my care team,” shares Merari. “I live for those times when I see a client who was struggling begin to thrive, and then achieve a better quality of life at home. Our team can say, ‘We did that!’ That’s the best feeling of all.”
Hometown: I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and moved to New Jersey when I was 10.
Education: I received my ASN from JFK Muhlenberg Harold B. & Dorothy A. Snyder School of Nursing in Plainfield, NJ and my BSN from Felician College (Felician University) in Lodi, NJ. I am currently enrolled in the BAYADA CRRN program and plan to work towards my Masters of Science in Nursing to become an APN.
Advice to my younger self
Nursing is your calling because people always come to you for advice and you enjoy making them feel better. As a home care nurse you get to understand and treat the whole person, body and mind, holistically—much more readily than in an acute setting.
I don’t always take my own advice, but it’s crucial for your mental health to decompress from your day with quiet time. Read a book, go to the beach, let your cells regenerate. You can’t do your best creative, critical thinking if you’re tired and fatigued.
Every day in home nursing, there will be a new challenge and something you don’t know. That’s the reason I love this profession! Don’t shy away from new experiences. Keep learning to become the best you can be.