Claudia Huerta was working toward a degree in business at San Jacinto College in Pasadena when she decided to gain certification as a patient care assistant (PCA).
“I wanted to make sure I could get a stable job with security and started working as a PCA while I was in school,” says Huerta, a native Houstonian. “I never actually wanted to be a nurse. We had a program in high school, but I thought it’s so cliché to be a teacher or a nurse, and I’m not going to be a nurse. So I decided to study business. But when I started rubbing elbows with the nurses where I worked, I got interested.”
In 2012, Huerta transitioned to TIRR Memorial Hermann as a PCA while she was still completing her prerequisites for nursing school. That fall, she started her Associate Degree in Nursing at San Jacinto College. In July 2014, she sat for the exam and earned her RN license.
“I was a new graduate nurse on the 6th floor, the same floor where I had worked as a PCA, so I knew the staff and they were all very supportive. It was a smooth transition,” she says.
Rehabilitation was Huerta’s first experience of nursing practice. At the skilled nursing facility where she had worked as a PCA before joining TIRR Memorial Hermann, she moved up to a restorative tech position, following up on physical therapy and occupational therapy orders and hosting exercise classes in the afternoon.
“In nursing school we didn’t have much exposure to rehabilitation,” she says. “Seeing these patients set goals and watching their progress taught me that even the smallest things we do help them achieve their goals. Little improvements can make big differences in the lives of patients and their families. Watching a family member come in scared the first day and then seeing them leave with confidence in their ability to take care of their family member—those are the things that make my day.”
Huerta completed her Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) training in anticipation of the opening of TIRR’s new eight-bed pediatric inpatient unit. She was named Employee of the Year at TIRR Memorial Hermann in 2020, after being nominated by Rasheeda Simpson, PCA, and Heather Hollis, RN, BSN, CRRN, both of whom work with Huerta on Patient Care Unit 6.
“Claudia inspires staff to be amazing,” Simpson says. “If you’re having a rough day, her attitude will turn your frown into a smile.”
Hollis nominated Huerta for her process improvements. “Claudia initiated a nurse/tech rounding process during her shifts to ensure continuity of care and increase assessments of our patients’ skin and bowel and bladder function, which improves care bundling and decreases interruptions in patient therapy and recovery time,” she says. “She also initiated a process that allows all disciplines to see when an NPO patient was last fed, decreasing medical complications that lead to increased length of stay and patient decline. Her compassion for our patients is what drives her to be a better nurse and inspires her team to do the same. She is a rock star 100 percent!”
For the 33rd consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 2 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.Learn More