Marilily Guitierrez, Certified Nursing Assistant, currently practicing in Florida, started her healthcare career in a New York church.
When she was just 17 years old, a family from church asked her to take care of their grandma with dementia. When she took care of her, she learned a lot about how dementia affects the mind and the impact that someone with dementia has on the people around them.
“Even though she couldn’t remember things, for some reason, she was okay with me taking care of her. We grew a real bond, and I loved it…From there, my grandmother gave me money to get a CNA license in Manhattan.”
After getting her license, Marilily joined an agency where she worked at places like St. John’s hospital and St. Barnabus. She gained some of the most valuable experiences of her career in the hospital setting.
“One of my first patients was a kid. I helped clean him up one day, but on the very next day, he passed away. I remember his mom screaming, but there was nothing I could do at that moment. It was hard for me as a young teenager, and I couldn’t handle it at the time. I felt so bad. I kept thinking back to when I was 17, taking care of that grandma with dementia. So when the doctor recommended that I work in the dementia unit, I knew that that’s where I was meant to go… In elder care, I know I can make a difference in their lives by taking care of them and connecting with them.”
Since then, Marilily worked as a CNA all across the country; from New York City to New Rochelle, to Utah, and now in Florida. She gained invaluable experience as a CNA in rehab nursing, later as a psychiatric technician in mental illness, and as a phlebotomist. No matter what she’s doing, she always brings her heart of compassion with her.
“I just love caring for people,” she says. “The reason I’m so thankful to work with IntelyCare is that I have Lupus. I have a lot of pain in my body, and I don’t always know when a flare-up will occur. But Intely makes it so that I can still work: I pick up shifts when my body is not in pain. It terrifies me not to be able to do what I love because I wouldn’t know how to live without being able to care for people … And IntelyCare pays well, which is good for people like me who can’t work all the time.”
Living with this condition has allowed her to genuinely connect with her patients, understanding them in a more personal and unique way. Growing up, Marilily was taught to “learn from your elders.” So she views her caregiving work as more than just a job. It’s an opportunity for her to enrich her life, broaden her perspectives, and learn valuable life lessons from the stories they tell. Having Marilily there to listen to their stories and appreciate their lives makes it all worth it for her.
“It’s so rewarding to hear from a patient that they are glad to see me in particular and that they want me back. Some nurses will just wait for their shift to be done and leave some caregiving tasks to the next person, but I don’t do that. They tell me that IntelyPros care in a special way that they appreciate … And I truly believe that if you give them some kind of love, they don’t feel as forgotten. You have to remember that not even their family can give them that loving touch because of COVID-19. It breaks my heart. So it’s on us to make them feel loved.”
Some of the hardest moments for Marilily come when she has to clean or dress a patient who has arthritis. When she needs to change them or wash them, she knows how painful it is for them to move their bodies. Seeing them in pain as she cares for them is hard for her, especially when her attention is spread thin with an assignment of 20 patients. But when she’s had a tough day, music always cheers her up.
“A lot of the times when I work at night, I put in one ear-bud as I do my tasks. So a lot of the patients hear me singing and dancing and say, ‘come sing to me!’ And that always helps me calm down when I’ve had a stressful day … One of the dementia patients would always wander around the facility getting angry and confused, but when I’d sing Yankee Doodle to him, he’d forget that he’s angry. So he’d recognize me and we’d work together to get him to where he needed to be … That’s why they used to call me ‘the dancing cheerleader’ in Utah!”
Marilily always makes sure to bring a positive attitude with her to the facilities she works at. During her time in Utah, she recalls encountering stressed-out nurses and nurses who were skeptical of agency staff. But over time, Marilily’s calm approach to her co-workers and patients, along with the genuine compassion she brings to her work, won over her facility’s staff. She recalls saying that “no matter what they thought of me in the first place, I would always say ‘if you need me, I’m always here to help.’” From there, it was only a matter of time before they started working together as a team.
Wherever she goes, Marilily brings that sense of teamwork with her. She recounts a time when a few CNAs were discouraged due to the low CNA pay and understaffing. So they were sitting down when help was needed. “She explained to me why she was discouraged with her work, so I told her, ‘I’ve been a CNA since I was 18 years old, I understand why you’re discouraged. But I just want to let you know that I’m going to make it better for you tonight.’ and that was that; from then on, we all started working as a team and got things under control. And now when I go to that facility, it’s always; ‘yes! Lily is here!’ … When you’re positive, you’ll change everybody’s night.”
When Marilily doesn’t have her hands full, leading her team at work and spending time with her kids, she loves to watch documentaries. Whether it’s through listening to her dementia patients’ stories or watching documentaries, she loves learning through other people’s lives. Learning about how people think and experience the world has always fascinated her. When she has the chance, she loves to cook Puerto Rican food, too. “Everybody in Utah used to call me ‘Mama Lily’ because I’d always put a smile on their faces with a good plate of Puerto Rican food … I love being a Mama whether it’s feeding the neighborhood kids or giving advice to teenagers, especially because I see a lot of kids whose Moms are not there for them. I give them a listening ear. That’s just who I am.”
The one piece of advice she gives to the kids she looks after is to make sure they put their education first. Marilily aspired to study to be a doctor or RN but ended up dropping those aspirations when kids came along. She loves her kids and being a mom more than anything. Still, she knows that getting an education before heavier responsibilities come along would have made all the difference in her future.
Thank you, Marilily, for sharing your journey in nursing with us. IntelyCare is here to support you as an IntelyPro in your healthcare career, and we’re honored to have you in the IntelyCare family!
IntelyCare gives nursing professionals like Marilily the ability to transform the way they work. Are you ready to take control of your life? Apply today to get started.