A nurse at the local Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center recently received the local State Assembly district’s “Woman of the Year” award.
Emelda Pasco, who has worked at the hospital for about 30 years and has cared for COVID-19 patients during the pandemic, was honored at a small ceremony in Burbank. Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, who represents California’s 43rd Assembly District, presented her with the award.
Pasco told the Leader she was wary when she was contacted about the award, for two reasons. First, she initially thought it was a spam call. And second, she wondered, “Why me?”
“Am I going to accept this or not?” she recalled thinking. “I’ve been a simple, quiet nurse — this is a big recognition.”
But Friedman lauded Pasco for her service. The nurse is one of 10 out of the 120 California residents chosen by state legislators for the 2021 “Woman of the Year” award. Pasco’s coworkers, Friedman’s office said in a news release, have described her as a dependable person they refer to as “the mother of nursing.”
“I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than Emelda Pasco, who has been battling COVID-19 on the front lines since the onset of this pandemic,” Friedman said in the release. “She is known by patients and coworkers as the living example of compassionate and capable patient care. Now more than ever, California is grateful for the service of health care heroes like Emelda Pasco.”
Pasco admitted that the past year has been difficult for health care workers like herself. She ordinarily works outpatient surgeries, but with the pandemic forcing the cancellation of many of those appointments, she and many of her fellow nurses have been reassigned to floors that handle coronavirus cases.
Particularly, she said, she and her coworkers were very worried that they themselves would be infected with the virus — and that they might pass it on to their families.
“It’s not easy, especially for frontline nurses, because [you have] a responsibility to your family and your responsibility to your community,” Pasco said. “And serving [in] the role [of] being a nurse, you have to work. You cannot quit.”
Fortunately, recent developments have allowed Pasco some peace. She’s vaccinated now, and coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have decreased immensely in California for months.
And on March 26, Pasco received her “Woman of the Year” award from Friedman, accompanied by representatives from Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and Service International Employees Union Local 121RN — her registered nurse union.
Pasco told the Leader she thanks Friedman for the award, but she also wanted to show appreciation for the other nurses and health care workers who have grappled with the pandemic.
“I just want to thank all of the frontliners,” she said. “They’re sacrificing just to come to work, leaving their families behind. Their strength, their courage, their hard work — I really appreciate it.”