Father, daughter, granddaughter choose to follow same career path
Jan. 5, 2012 at 7 p.m.
Updated Jan. 4, 2012 at 7:05 p.m.
The Growing Nursing Gap
The demand for health care services in Texas continues to grow as the population booms and ages. Here are some quick stats to help put this gap into perspective:
The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2015 the Texas population will exceed 25 million and by 2025 it will reach 28 million.
During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, fewer people entering the work force made professional nursing their career choice, resulting in the average age of Texas registered nurses at 45 years old. About 73,000 registered nurses, half of Texas' current supply, will retire in the next 10 years.About 2,193 nursing faculty are 55 years old and older. About 1,491 faculty members are estimated to retire over the next 10 years.SOURCE; Texas Nurses Association, www.texasnurses.org
Benny Martinez had what he saw as the world's best profession.
The 78-year-old Goliad resident was an angel, at least that's what others called him.
But Benny prefers his more proper title - nurse - and now his daughter and granddaughter have immersed themselves into a profession in which he has nearly half a century of experience in.
A Flash into the Past
In 1976, Benny Martinez sat by his ailing wife, Helen.
Doctors at MD Anderson in Houston watched hopelessly as she died from sarcoma, a disease which medicine at the time had little power to control.
Benny's daughter, Melinda Martinez, was about 15 years old at the time.
For several months she watched her father care for her mother.
Through her father's guidance, she soon starting helping her mother as well.
"My mother was my first patient," Melinda said.
Benny can still picture his youngest daughter in the hospital room, the passion to nurse bubbling beneath the surface.
Tears welled in Benny's eyes as he remembered taking care of his late wife.
For him, it was like she died yesterday.
"I took care of her," he said. "I nursed her."
But living the life of a nurse was not Benny's original plan.
A Change in Plans
Benny had always wanted to be a lawyer. That was the plan, at least.
Benny, who served in the U.S. Army as a nurse in the medical corps, told two counselors in the Army he wanted to pursue his law degree.
But they had another idea in mind.
"We don't think you'll make it," Benny recalls them saying.
"Well, what makes you think that," Benny retorted. "I'm motivated. And that's what it takes, is motivation."
Needless to say, he ended up going the nursing route.
After leaving the Medical Corps, he worked at the Harris County Psychiatric Hospital for 35 years and then Medical Arts Hospital in Houston for 10 years.
Aside from actual employment, his skills came in handy when he helped his late wife at MD Anderson. He also took care of his mother and even friends.
Looking back, Benny said he can't imagine having done anything else in life.
"I'll tell you one thing. The man up there," Benny said, pointing his slender, weathered finger to the sky. "He knows what he's doing."
Today, Benny walks the Goliad County Courthouse as a bailiff - rubbing elbows with lawyers.
Now retired, Benny has had the best of both worlds. He's still qualified to aid others in medical need and he gets to watch others fulfill what he once had a passion for.
And now, his granddaughter, Melinda's daughter, Hilary Ortega, is also in the field.
The 21-year-old lives in Brownsville with her mother, who works with Valley Regional Medical Center and Solara, a long-term acute care center.
Ortega graduated with an associates in nursing from The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she is continuing for her bachelors degree.
Eventually, she would like to receive her doctorate degree.
Growing up, Ortega looked at her mother as a role model, she said.
"She's a very good nurse," she said.
Also, Benny's constant reassurance of everything Ortega has done has been positive, she said.
"My grandpa, I love him," she said. "He's always been proud of me no matter what I do."
For Benny, just seeing the passion in the eyes of his daughter and now granddaughter is enough to make him smile ear-to-ear.
"This is a noble, heart-warming profession," he said. "To these people who are very, very sick, you're like an angel to them."