An Interview with Henry Geuvara, PhD, MPH, APRN, FNP-C, COHN-S/CM

Interview conducted by Megan Ruckert, BSN, RN, COHN-S

Q: Many nurses in this field originally practiced nursing in a different setting. Tell me about the field(s) of nursing you worked in prior to making the transition to occupational health.
A: When I did my BSN program, we had to do a rotation in occupational health, and that’s where I first found out about this field. We had to go in to various industries and do rotations there. I knew I didn’t want to work at a hospital. I’ve always had community in my heart. When I went through my occupational health rotation, I knew that was my niche. I loved the autonomy and being a professional in occupational health. At the beginning of my nursing career, I was encouraged to work in an emergency room to gain experience. I found out early on that that was going to be very valuable when it came to triaging employees. I worked at the hospital for six months to a year before I put in my application with IBM Corporation. I received a call right away, because I had done a rotation there through school, and I was hired. That was my first job, and I did that for about 16 years.

Q: How did you prepare yourself to be qualified to transition into the field of occupational health from your original area of nursing?
A: My work in the emergency department was very valuable because it taught me important skills related to triaging and assessing patients and performing physicals. The experience also helped with skill development like drawing blood, starting IVs, etc. When I transitioned into occupational health, I had that skill set.

Q: Since transitioning to occupational health, in which industries have you worked? Of those, do you have a favorite?
A: I have worked for IBM Corporation, Dell computers, Applied Materials, and Samsung Semiconductor, which were all within the manufacturing industry. My position at the University of Texas at Austin is completely different. We have three clinics here on campus, and I work in the clinic that focuses on occupational health for faculty and staff. This has been the most interesting role for me, because I didn’t have a background in it and I had to learn a lot for my new role.

Q. What do you do to stay abreast of your job, and what are your plans for a next job?
A. I have a master’s in public health, which I completed through the University of North Carolina. That program was specific to occupational health and really prepared me for my university work. Various corporations that I have worked for also assisted me in my education, and I have always taken advantage of those opportunities. For example, I went back to school and did an FNP program through UT at Austin, and that was an opportunity because of my employment there.

Q: From which other professional fields do you seek information in order to develop your professional skills?
A: As a result of the FNP program, I’m connected to other nurse practitioners from different fields. I’m also connected to the family medicine group, and they have tons of continuing education that is available to us. There are lots of CME and CEU opportunities through those groups.

Q: Have you ever participated in a mentoring program?
A: I have graduate students who come through my office here at the university, and I am trying to expose them to the field of occupational health. I have also had high school students do a rotation with me.

Q: What has been the driving force behind your pursuit of higher education?
A: More knowledge! It seems that the more that I have learned, I realize that I really don’t know that much. There are so many experts out there, and we can tap into that work and continue to build on it.

Q: You have achieved so much academically and professionally. Do you have plans to continue to further your formal education?
A: No, I have come to the end. My assignment now is to have fun and enjoy life! I would like to teach, and I see that on the horizon. I want to give back to communities, impart my knowledge, and give back to the field of occupational health.

Q: What has been your most valuable on-the-job learning experience?
A: I think the thing that stands out for me is that in the beginning of my career, other nurses took the time to help mentor me. Truly, it was on the job…nothing formal. There weren’t a lot of courses available at that time, and I am very thankful that they took the time to teach me about occupational health.

Q: What do you feel is an area of your practice that you wish to further develop?
A: I have a doctorate of nursing through UT at Austin, and currently, we are working with the Hispanic population who have been diagnosed with, or are at high risk for, diabetes. These individuals work at the university, and we have been trying to design a culturally specific program for them. I am working on this with a researcher here on campus through the School of Nursing.

Q: If you had the opportunity to transition into any industry, performing the tasks of an occupational health nurse, which industry would you choose and why?
A: I wish to transition into academia. That’s the next step for me.

Q: What advice would you give to occupational health nurses who are unsure of where to begin developing their career and exploring leadership opportunities?
A: I have taken advantage of every opportunity that has come my way. I went to school through a NIOSH grant through the University of North Carolina. I would encourage other nurses to look for opportunities and to take advantage of those as they come along. Also, I would strongly encourage nurses to get involved in occupational health organizations on the local, state, and national levels. Through my involvement, I have maintained a wide network and have met so many interesting people. That is where you learn about opportunities like the UNC program.