How Nurse Raquel Became The CNO of Gales Shoes
If you’re a floor nurse, chances are you’re familiar with the routine of either changing out of your hospital shoes before you leave from your shift or before you walk into your house—hospital floor germs just aren’t something you want to track into your living areas.
And a new shoe brand, Gales, is aiming to help that very problem with an antimicrobial shoe that also happens to be specifically designed for comfort and protection during those long nursing shifts. In fact, as a Gales board member who is also a nurse shared, before Gales came onto the market, her three-year-old daughter accidentally touched her shoe after the nurse had come home from work and ended up with an infection.
Gales shoes are clearly needed and in a recent Ask Nurse Alice podcast, Nurse Alice got to speak directly with Raquél Pérez, BSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer for Gales, to find out more about her and the shoe company that supports nurses from the ground up.
Journey into Nursing
Pérez admitted to Nurse Alice that she simply wasn’t someone who always knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, she explained that she fell into nursing in a serendipitous way.
“I like to say that nursing kind of chose me in a weird way,” she described.
While in the process of trying to figure out what she wanted to do, she began volunteering in a local ER doing simple tasks like patient transport. But it was in that environment that she says she was “really drawn” to the staff and specifically how they interacted with patients. “That stuck with me for a very long time,” Pérez added.
After viewing that interaction, doing more research, and being drawn to what she described as the “genuine love and empathy that nurses as humans—but also as career professionals— display,” her mind was made up: she decided to become a NICU nurse.
She attended the University of Rhode Island and told Nurse Alice that she did struggle a bit through nursing school as well as in passing the NCLEX. For Pérez, the fourth time was the charm and she is open with other nurses about some of the struggles she faced to become a nurse.
“It's now something that I am proud to say that I went through,” Pérez added.
Her journey post-graduation also looked a little bit different than she first anticipated. Although she dreamed of starting right in the NICU, Pérez started in med-surg cardiac, then went to oncology, then dabbled a little bit in women's health. And finally, she landed her dream job in the NICU before switching routes yet again to the business end of nursing.
“It was such a fulfilling time in my life and honestly, the patients and the families themselves made that job for me,” Pérez described. “And as did the other specialties, but there's something about NICU and seeing a baby, a newborn, and knowing that I'm the immediate first care provider for them. It just fulfilled me endlessly every single day that I was there,” she added.
Although she enjoyed her time in the NICU, Pérez ended up moving again, but as she and Nurse Alice discussed, such is the beauty of nursing—it allows for endless opportunities for people who like change.
“Ironically enough, I think it's very strange how I had this goal and this dream and now I'm doing something very different but still in the nursing field,” Pérez noted. “It's a beautiful thing though… I'm happy to be here, happy to talk about the difference between bedside vs. business in nursing, and all the different things that you get to do with your nursing license, because there's a lot. It's not just a one-track setting,” she added.
A New Foot Forward
The pandemic brought a soul shift to light for Pérez, as it did many in the healthcare profession.
“It really made me think differently about how I wanted to move and how I wanted to create a career that was beneficial for me as a person and not just me as a nurse,” she told Nurse Alice. Many things added up for her, from working through a pandemic to the exhaustion of night shift to changing policies at the hospital. “I was so burnt out and feeling very just sad and hopeless as a lot of people were.”
She considered things like going back to school or becoming a nurse manager when the opportunity with Gales fell into her lap. While still working in the NICU and starting to pursue other ideas, Pérez dabbled in social media and got signed up with a website called Activate, which connects creators to brands. When she saw a new company called Gales was looking for help with promoting their shoes, she applied.
It was almost immediately a match made in shoe heaven.
“We immediately synced,” Pérez said of meeting with the Gales team. “I just felt their energy was so incredible in terms of what they wanted to do, how they wanted to grow the brand, their team. And we just saw very much eye to eye creatively.”
Although she was saddened to leave the NICU, Pérez felt she was ready for a change of setting and after initially joining Gales as a part-time medical consultant, soon approached the company to join full-time as Chief Nursing Officer (CNO).
As CNO, Pérez told Nurse Alice that she is a “conduit” between the brand and nurses. She works on facilitating partnerships, event planning, marketing and branding, and new initiatives that help nurses beyond just the product itself.
“I wear a lot of hats and I dabble in a lot of areas,” she said, adding: “A lot of what I do in my job is just connection.”
While she feels her job differs from a CNO role at a hospital, she also described the similarities in that CNOs are meant to serve as the “middleman” between nurses and foster that connectivity in their role. “At the end of the day, that is what chief nursing officers everywhere are meant to represent and do,” she said.
While the pandemic ushered in a new career path for Pérez, it also ushered in Gales as a brand and product line into existence as well. Nurse Alice and Pérez discussed how Gales founder, Rob Gregg, witnessed someone he knew fall ill with COVID and be rushed to the hospital.
The experience helped Gregg to realize the importance of PPE for nurses and how little nurses have for shoes other than the occasional boot cover. And that’s when he decided to found Gale’s shoes as anti-microbial footwear for nurses.
“No one thinks about shoes, honestly,” Pérez pointed out. “But [Rob] saw the work that nurses do, what we were going through, the lack of resources, how empathetic and willing they were to help his family member come out of COVID.”
“Rob saw it all,” she added. “And he was really touched. And so it is a labor of love, in a way, the shoe itself, for nurses, and a tribute to what we went through in COVID and what we continue to see.”
A Seat at the Table
Pérez and Nurse Alice both happen to be CNOs of nursing-related businesses and they discussed the importance of ensuring nurses who have real-world floor experience have a seat at the table in the business world.
As a CNO, Pérez also pointed out how nurses should be at the table in every sector and every type of career because they’re professionals who have skills that translate everywhere.
“We are people who are adaptable, have incredible skills and communication—why wouldn't we be at the table of every type of sector profession possible?” she pointed out. “The sky's the limit and so in wanting to make this happen, I had to remind myself that I deserve a seat here too.”
Part of that seat, of course, involves spreading the news about what Gales can offer nurses and how something as simple as the right shoe can both support and protect them. “We’ve got to take care of our feet,” Nurse Alice stressed. “There's no such thing as a foot transplant!”
Nurse Alice also added that she thinks it’s “great” that Gales shoes are antimicrobial because “we know all kinds of stuff flies around in the hospital. And Pérez pointed out that while many shoes are marketed for nurses and can provide support, Gales are unique in that they really are designed to be as safe as possible. For instance, consider laces on hospital shoes. You can’t clean those; you can’t sanitize those.
“Listen, wipe your laces or just get Gales because they don't have any, but like laces, there are so many things that harbor bacteria,” Pérez said.
The Bedside and Beyond
Pérez and Nurse Alice ended their conversation by reaffirming that while bedside nursing is always a need and a valuable and worthy profession, the beauty of nursing is that there is something for everyone. Nurses who don’t feel called to the bedside or just want to explore something new always have the opportunity to explore other career paths.
“Everyone has a little bit of a different journey,” Nurse Alice said. “Sometimes we have to exit the bedside and do something differently—sometimes it's temporary, sometimes it's permanent. But it's good to know that there are other opportunities and I like to tell people whatever there's a problem, there's always going to be a need for a nurse because we are natural born problem solvers and we are caregivers”
Pérez agreed and added that she is just glad that her own nursing journey has taken her to both the bedside and to places she never dreamed of, all while letting her use her skills in new and rewarding ways.
“It's been a journey, a beautiful journey, and I'm just grateful for all of it, to be honest,” she said.
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