What is it like to work at one of the world’s leading healthcare systems? Challenging. Empowering. Rewarding.
But don’t take our word for it. Hear it directly from the people who make UCLA Health an exceptional place to build a career.
“I chose UCLA because it’s a teaching hospital.”
Maria joined UCLA as an OR Tech directly from school. Her primary role is making preparations for surgery – preparing the rooms, the physicians and the patients. With up to 20 procedures a day, her job keeps her busy. These might include eye surgeries, orthopedics, general surgery or gallbladder surgery to name a few. So hers are very full days encompassing a wide range of procedures. But amid all the constant work, there is also constant learning. Which is why Maria chose UCLA.
“The surgeons are great – wonderful doctors and amazing teachers. It’s not necessarily their role to teach us, but that’s the environment. They are so open to helping you learn more and more,” she says. “If I have a question about something, I never hesitate to ask. The continuous learning makes my job great. And their job easier!”
“Because we’re a teaching hospital we almost always have a resident in the room. As the attending physician explains things to the resident, you’re there and hear everything. You’re never just standing there. You’re always soaking up knowledge like a sponge. And nothing has built my confidence like knowledge has.”
“I want to help the physicians like they have helped me.”
“The physicians I work with go all out for me. I pay them back by going all out for them, and for the patients that we all serve. If that means staying late, that’s fine by me, especially in cases where I might know more about a particular patient than the tech who’s about to relieve me. So I would rather stay and help and not delay the process because that’s what everyone is counting on. And I want them to know they can always count on me.”
“I’m the fourth generation of doctors in my family.”
Isaac Yang’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all physicians, so needless to say, he had a pretty good idea of what his future path would be. “I graduated from Berkeley and I went to UCLA, so I’m a complete product of the University of California,” he says. “So coming back here was like coming back home.” Today, Dr. Yang is a neurosurgeon specializing in the surgical treatment and clinical outcomes of adult brain and spinal cord tumors.
“Of all the things that you can hear in this world, ‘you have a brain tumor’ might be one of the scariest. I really felt for those patients. I really found that this was my passion.” Here at UCLA, Dr. Yang sees the opportunity to treat people with brain tumors in a safe, effective, minimally invasive way. “So they can go back to work faster, and preserve their functions – smiling, and hearing. We want to treat people the way we would want our families to be treated. It’s more than just being skilled. It’s about being compassionate,” he says with a smile.
A principal investigator at the UCLA Brain Tumor Program, Dr. Yang’s extensive research interests include optimizing brain tumor clinical outcomes, novel nanoparticles against brain tumors, and experimental glioblastoma therapies like brain tumor vaccines. In 2014, Dr. Yang was recognized as the faculty award winner for the Humanism in Medicine Award at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. “I was humbled and honored to be recognized. I was grateful for the mentors I had, and I’m proud to be a mentor for passionate students. I’m helping them develop into people who will help make a difference in the world.”
“UCLA encourages us to pursue our passion.”
One of the things Dr. Yang appreciates about UCLA is that they encourage everyone to be who they are, to be true to themselves. “They recognize and see that difference in each one of us, and they cultivate it. They nurture it. And then they use all these different pieces to come together to develop something bigger and better than its component pieces, to create this beautiful institution. UCLA encourages us to pursue our passion. That helping people isn’t just what you do as a job for a salary. It’s about making a difference. And I love being surrounded by that every day.”
Grace began her career where the learning was best.
Grace studied nursing right here in Los Angeles at Mount St. Mary’s College, and did her clinicals at UCLA. So she knew there were a lot of great reasons for starting a career at UCLA Health. But for Grace, the nearly unlimited opportunities for learning were among the most important. “UCLA is such an innovative hospital, and it’s great to work where there are so many new things going on. But the main thing is, they put so much effort into making sure we have the training to learn them. So if a new program is coming to the unit, the clinical nurse specialist or clinical educator sets up in-service training. So we can bring all the new innovations into how we practice.”
“I came here right out of nursing school. And now, I’m a Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse,” says Grace. “So I think we’re pretty lucky to have an Administration that pushes education as much as UCLA does.” And the learning opportunities go beyond just nursing skills. “I’ve learned to work as a preceptor and educator. I’ve worked in the lab and I’ve even worked with insurance.” Where does it stop? “It never stops,” says Grace. “You can take courses in ethics, in pain, in evidence-based practice, in research… just name it.” And for nurses who want to train in new clinical areas? “UCLA promotes that,” she says. “They want our skills as broad-based as possible.”
Grace knows how intimidating UCLA can be for even experienced nurses when they first arrive. “It was easier for me because of the time I spent here while I was still in school.” So how does UCLA deal with the intimidation factor? “We have really strong orientation programs,” she says, “especially for new grads. There’s Launch Pad, which is something about 4 days of skills labs and classes before you even get to the floor. Then you’re paired with a preceptor and you could have up to a week of classes depending on your unit. And then orientation for the unit might be another 6 weeks to 3 months. So they make sure nurses are really ready here.”
“What besides learning is so great about UCLA?”
“Are you kidding? Don’t get me started!” But we got her started. “The move to Magnet has been very powerful. For the nurses and the hospitals.” And then there’s CICARE, the evidence-based system UCLA uses for interacting with patients. “It gives us a way to communicate with our patients and with each other that builds understanding and trust.” But what Grace seems to like best about UCLA is the people she works with. “They’re not just my coworkers. They’re my friends. My family! People here always have my back. And they know I have theirs. How else do you build trust?” she asked. How indeed. “If you want great teamwork, you have to start with a great team. And that’s what I love most about UCLA. I get to be part of such an amazing team effort.”
“I like the environment because it fosters innovation.”
Jason began his career at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center as a new grad over 10 years ago when he finished his residency. He was looking for opportunities to teach, and as a teaching hospital UCLA was the perfect environment. After leaving for several years to pursue other professional opportunities, Jason found himself back in 2013, at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. He now serves as the pharmacy’s Clinical Coordinator.
“I was looking for more growth and leadership opportunities,” he tells us. Pharmaceutical Services at UCLA Health, which is one of the nation’s top ranked pharmacy departments, provides those opportunities in abundance. “We’re doing so many innovative things here, I think it’s fair to say we’re helping define the future of the hospital pharmacy.”
“One thing we’re doing is really broadening the field into patient care delivery,” Jason said. CareConnect, UCLA’s advanced electronic records systems, is also enabling important changes. “We can verify right away if the drug ordered is appropriate according to evidence-based guidelines and check for potentially adverse side effects based on the patient’s medical history or tests taken while in the hospital. It’s a natural system of checks and balances.”
“The philosophy is the same throughout UCLA Health.”
Having worked at both Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, Jason understands what’s different, but also what both have in common. “The patient populations differ. But the philosophy – the physicians, nurses, pharmacists working together to innovate, to listen to new ideas that can translate to improved patient care – that doesn’t change. Which is what UCLA is really all about.”
“UCLA fully supports the Nurse Practitioner role.”
Berta’s nursing journey began over 28 years ago at UCLA Health. In her junior year of nursing school, she started working as a Senior Nursing Aide before becoming a bedside nurse in Pediatrics. She went on to take roles as a Step-down Nurse, Bone Marrow Transplant Nurse and ICU Nurse. When she saw the opportunity to become a Nurse Practitioner, Berta decided to pursue her Master’s. “UCLA fully supports the Nurse Practitioner role. And I’m able to use my Master’s degree in a position that I’m very happy to be in.”
“I think that’s very important whenever you’re making a decision,” says Berta. “Whether you’re a bedside nurse or now as a Nurse Practitioner, it’s always about doing what’s best for the patient.” She points out that the Nurse Practitioner role can differ from unit to unit, and even from day shift to night shift. But in every unit, the patient is at the center of everything. In the PICU, Berta works as part of multidisciplinary team, managing patients and handling admission orders and discharge planning.
Of all the things Nurse Practitioners are responsible for doing, Berta feels that continuity is among the most important. “There’s a constant circulation of different faces on the unit. Patients can have different attending physicians accompanied by different fellows. Residents change out every two to four weeks. But we’re here week to week, so we get to know the patients who are here the longest. We also get to know the families, which I love. And families get to know us and really appreciate what we do.”
“We teach each other, and we learn from each other.”
The role of the Nurse Practitioner involves the ongoing education of both bedside nurses and physicians. “I work with three different levels of physicians,” Berta explains. “I work with the residents who are seeing the patients on a daily basis. I work the fellows who manage all of the patients on the unit. And I work with the attending physicians, who do a lot of teaching on rounds. We’re very collegial and supportive of each other. The physicians rely on us. They’re comfortable with handing off some of their control because they know we have the strongest connection to the patients.”
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