Despite a six-year age difference, Thelma Guerrero and her younger brother Ramiro Benitez were always close, so much so that when one went into nursing, the other followed. Thelma started in nursing by chance; Ramiro followed her lead.
“I didn’t want to be a nurse; I wanted to be an English teacher,” Thelma said. “I took a nursing elective just to fill my schedule. Maybe I was supposed to take that class.”
While Thelma was in the process of changing her career plans, her grandmother, who was terminally ill with cancer, went into hospice care. The imminent loss also influenced her decision.
“It’s moving,” Thelma recalled. “It’s moving to see human life, how you treat others – I thought maybe that was where I was supposed to be.”
Thelma enrolled in nursing school at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, and started working at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, also in Corpus Christi, at the end of her first year.
“I loved it,” Thelma said. “I wanted to bring all of the kids home with me.”
Working at Driscoll throughout nursing school, Thelma later took a position at a nursing home. Though she’d never envisioned working with older adults, the hours were flexible and suited her schedule as she attended the nurse practitioner program at A&M.
She quickly fell in love with her patients.
“My heart went out to the residents,” Thelma said. “A lot of elderly residents are abandoned, so they look forward to talking to us and seeing us.”
Moving up to assistant director of nursing, Thelma continued to provide hands-on care, administering medications, feeding and turning patients, among other tasks.
“They became like family for me,” Thelma added.
After receiving a master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner, Thelma worked for Fidelis Securecare of Texas, Inc. When the company closed its Corpus Christi location, it offered Thelma a position in Houston. Having been raised in the small town of Beeville, Houston wasn’t her cup of tea, so she declined.
“I’m a small town girl,” she said.
Thelma started with WellMed when the private practice she worked with was acquired, becoming WellMed at Morgan in Corpus Christi.
As Thelma was completing her education, Ramiro was getting his associate’s degree at Coastal Bend College, trying to decide what he wanted to do next. Thelma pointed out the advantages of a nursing career.
“Being a nurse doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a hospital,” Thelma said. “There are so many diverse opportunities.”
Like his sister, Ramiro attended A&M in Corpus Christi after earning his associate’s degree. After receiving his nursing degree, he pursued a career in the operating room as a circulating nurse.
“I have seen so much pathology, but orthopedics captured my interest,” Ramiro said. He later enrolled in the nurse practitioner program at A&M.
“Thelma was always inspirational to me, so I followed in her footsteps,” Ramiro said. “I loved my job as a circulating nurse, but seeing what could be done to surgically help a patient was only part of the story. I wanted to know more. I felt I could be more involved in patient care. .”
Thelma couldn’t be prouder.
“It’s so rewarding to see my little brother in this role,” she said. “We’ll call each other and ask each other for advice.”
Ramiro feels the same.
“It’s kind of awesome to be able to bounce ideas off of each other and wait to see outcomes from what we discussed,” he said. “I especially love when I get to go into detail about orthopedic management because that, of course, is my passion.
Today, both siblings live in Beeville.
“We make the same drive every morning,” Ramiro said. “When we part ways, I go left to Sinton, and she goes right to Mathis. Between us, we are able to cover this rural area.”
Most of their patients don’t know the two clinicians are related, even though both have treated many of them.
“When they find out, they light up,” Ramiro said. “You really get to know the patients and the families who are so involved with them.”
Ramiro also appreciates the WellMed model of care.
“It is so rewarding to be able to work in a place where my practice beliefs of preventive, holistic patient care is something that is achievable through being an NP with WellMed,” he said. “Thelma and I were both raised religiously and believe that God placed us in this profession to touch lives and health others.
“When I left Corpus Christi and came to WellMed at Mathis, it was a hard decision,” Thelma recalled. “Patients followed me. They saw me pregnant with my children, and I went through deaths with them. They are like family.”
Submitted by WellMed Medical Management