Friday, May 7, 2010 2:35 PM

22-year nurse knows the Community health care system well

Shelley Costanzo was just 15 years old when the drive to become a nurse hit her. She was in high school and signed up for off-campus courses to get certified as a nurse’s aide. She says the most fun was competing against other students on skills such as bed making, giving bed baths and taking vital signs.

Since then, she’s added many more skills and has worked at all three of Community Medical Centers’ hospitals – Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital, Clovis Community Medical Center and Community Regional Medical Center. One thing she’s taken everywhere with her is the drive to make people feel better.

National Nurses Week is celebrated each year from May 6 to May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who’s credited as founder of modern nursing. And while Community Medical Centers aims to recognize each of its 2,200-plus nurses, caught up with a few of Community’s longest tenured caregivers to get insight on the nursing profession.

What journey did you take to become a nurse?
Costanzo:  I first applied at Hylond Convalescent Hospital and got a job as a nurse’s aide and then got a second job as a nurse’s aide at Hope Manor Convalescent Hospital. I went to nursing school and graduated from Fresno State in 1988. I worked at then Fresno Community Hospital (now Community Regional Medical Center) for several years, starting out on 5 East. I went to Kaiser Permanente for five years and returned to the Community family working at Clovis Community Medical Center for five years. For the past three years, I have been at the Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the nursing profession in your career?
All the regulatory requirements have been the biggest change. I remember the good old days when we would use a big, plastic tray and would line it with paper medicine cups. I would write the room number of the patient on the bottom of the medicine cups. This process took about 30 minutes for about 10 patients. Now the process is a lot longer and time consuming, but patients are safer.

Why did you become a nurse?
I love people, especially making someone feel better. I always wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl. Am I the only one who remembers playing nurse and doctor in the back yard as a kid?

What do you like best about Community Medical Centers?
I am extremely happy to be working with people that I have known for many years throughout my journey.

What is your most memorable moment as a nurse?
Working with Cynthia Cervantes (who’s now chief nursing officer at Fresno Heart & Surgical) on weekends was a blast. We would order menudo for lunch. When I started working at Clovis, Mario Schiltz trained me as a house supervisor, as usual he was always playing jokes. Making good friends throughout my career has to be the most memorable of moments.

What shifts have you worked?
All of them.

What is your best piece of advice for those going into nursing today?
Make sure you are going into the field for the right reason.

This story was reported by Bonni Montevecchi. She can be reached at