School of Nursing


Bolivian Immigrant Finds Meaning in Providing Care at Carbon Campus
June 18, 2024

Yessica Rivero discovered her life’s calling to become a nurse while taking care of a dying woman.

“She was a doctor on hospice, and I was with her 24/7,” said the 32-year-old Palmerton resident. “She taught me so much about what I want to do during the last months of her life and encouraged me to go into health care.”

Today, the native of Bolivia, South America, is preparing to enter the St. Luke’s School of Nursing, while she works as a patient care assistant (PCA) at St. Luke’s Carbon Campus. She is a permanent U.S. resident and plans to apply for citizenship this summer.

Rivero’s life has been fraught with challenges. But she has faced them with a smile, a thirst for knowledge, unbridled determination and a personality that makes her a valued colleague at the hospital where she has worked since September 2023.

Her early career plan was to teach Spanish in the US, so she earned a master’s in Hispanic Philology (the study of Hispanic languages, literature and culture) from a university in Bolivia.

After a short stint teaching in New Jersey, then a return home for a few years, she knew she wanted to make the United States her permanent home.

“There’s so many more opportunities here than in Bolivia,” she said. She returned alone, carrying a single suitcase, bolstered by her dream to teach.

But none of her education credits from her home country were accepted here, so she couldn’t teach without earning another degree. Meanwhile, she took unskilled jobs to support herself and planned her future while living in Bethlehem.

When the doctor’s family asked Rivero to provide personal care for her, she decided to obtain her GED. That move, she said, opened her eyes to her future possibilities.

“I believe God was asking me to do something to help people,” she said. “I told myself, if I have to start over, this is in my heart.”

When the woman passed away, Rivero interviewed and was hired at St. Luke’s Carbon Campus and trained as a PCA. Meanwhile, she took the required classes at the community college to qualify for nursing school.

Whether she’s taking her patients’ vitals or withdrawing their blood for testing, or supporting them during their daily activities, she brightens the lives of each person whom she interacts with on the second-floor med-surg unit.

“Yessica has a work ethic that is unmatched, and her commitment to patient care shines through in every task she undertakes,” said her supervisor Candy Madera, MSN, RN, director of patient care services.

“With a disposition that radiates positivity, Yessica uplifts both patients and colleagues alike with her warm smile and compassionate demeanor. She approaches every day with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude, tackling every challenge with grace and determination.”

Yessica has received scores of accolades from patients and loads of “bravos” from her peers in the short time she has been part of the team.  She was nominated for the 2024 Nurse Excellence (Jacqueline Sheehan Teamwork Award) and received the Rising Star Award in February.

“These awards encourage me to keep going,” she said softly, her face aglow.

She’s eager to start her training at the School of Nursing, the oldest continuously operating nursing school in the country. Two years from now, she plans to graduate and continue her journey at St. Luke’s as a member of the world’s most trusted profession.

“I found my dream work helping people in need, which I wasn’t aware of a few years ago,” Rivero said. “It feels so good.”