ANA Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation® - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Nancy Rodriguez, RN, BSN, CDCES 4662

ANA Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation® - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Nancy Rodriguez, RN, BSN, CDCES


Nurse revolutionizes diabetes care through health equity and plant-based nutrition

In the health care industry, some nurses stand out as change-makers. They selflessly dive into areas that are close to their hearts. They address health disparities head-on and do what they can to break down barriers for patients. Nancy Rodriguez, RN, BSN, CDCES, is one of those trailblazers. She’s reshaping diabetes care through a health equity and plant-based nutrition lens.

But Nancy wasn’t always on this path — her journey was shaped by personal experiences. Throughout her childhood and young adult life, she watched her mom grapple with diabetes in a community laden with economic and language challenges. Nancy saw firsthand how these obstacles affected both her mom's health and her access to the health care services she needed.

"Being a single mom, Latina, and facing many barriers, my mother's journey with diabetes opened my eyes to the immense challenges that underserved families face," says Nancy. "It inspired my compassion and ignited a commitment to make a difference."

This personal commitment led Nancy into nursing and eventually earned her the title of Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES). Her focus? Empowering individuals with the knowledge to effectively manage their diabetes.

A Vision for Health Equity
Nancy's commitment to health equity and diabetes education led to an “always be learning” attitude. Through her mother’s experience, she witnessed the limitations of available resources, and sought to adapt and expand her approach. An impactful CDCES that worked with her mother made a lasting impression. After meeting this woman, Nancy set out to bring similar motivation and education to her own community.

As a CDCES herself, Nancy empowered underserved communities with diabetes education. She also adapted health care curricula to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking populations.

"I wanted to be a dynamic force, helping others in a way that truly empowers them,” explains Nancy. “It wasn't just about managing diabetes, but also addressing the broader social determinants impacting health, such as language barriers.”

Growing Plant-Powered Wellness
Nancy's journey took a major turn when she discovered the game-changing potential of plant-based nutrition. Motivated by her mother's struggles and her own commitment to go above and beyond, Nancy embraced a plant-based lifestyle. It didn’t take long to see that this lifestyle helped her steer clear of the health issues that had affected her family, including her mother.

Nancy then brought plant-based principles to her patients, and soon, she noticed the difference it made in their health, too. Some even experienced diabetes reversal and were able to safely discontinue certain medications and insulin with their health care provider’s guidance. These successes pushed Nancy to dive deeper into the connection between plant-based living and holistic health.

An Unexpected Influence
Nancy's dedication drew attention from peers and researchers, leading to unexpected opportunities to spread her knowledge. Collaborating with an endocrinologist, she ran a retrospective study that looked at the effects of plant-based nutrition on diabetes management. The study caught the attention of The Endocrine Society and paved the way for Nancy to speak at preventive disease conferences.

While Nancy's original goal was to empower her local community, her influence expanded much further. She unintentionally became a catalyst for others to explore plant-based nutrition, with more and more colleagues seeking her expertise and guidance.

Empowering the Next Generation
To boost her impact, Nancy completed training and certification through the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to teach the Food for Life program. This program focuses on promoting plant-based nutrition and educating individuals on making informed and health-conscious food choices to prevent and manage various health conditions. Certified instructors are equipped to lead classes, workshops, and seminars, spreading knowledge about the benefits of plant-based diets for overall well-being.

Today, as a PCRM Certified Food for Life Instructor, Nancy teaches a Food for Life class that improves her patients’ health and helps to shape the next generation of health care professionals. Fluent in both English and Spanish, she breaks down language barriers and spreads her knowledge to a diverse audience.

Her husband, Andres, also joined the cause. He became a Food for Life instructor and teamed up with Nancy to model a plant-based family approach. This allowed the pair to expand their teaching to include parents and their children. Together, Nancy and Andres show people that they can promote positive change in their families when it comes to disease prevention, control, and/or reversal. 

With retirement approaching, Nancy is committed to impacting as many people as she can — her patients, other health care professionals, her family, and the broader community. Her journey is far from over, and her legacy of compassion, education, and plant-powered wellness continues to inspire.

"Being a nurse is not just a job for me; it's a commitment to making a positive impact, inspired by my mom's journey and the challenges faced by underserved communities,” says Nancy. “Every person I help is a step toward a healthier, more equitable world."

Nancy Rodriguez RN, BSN, CDCES, is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist and a PCRM Certified Food for Life Instructor.

Are you a #healthynurse? Share your stories of transformative health care with us in our discussion below.

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Blog #healthynurse Spotlight 02/13/2024 8:13am CST

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The #healthynurse Spotlight is a shout out to nurses who are making changes in their lives to improve their health and wellness. You can too! Read their stories for inspiration here.