Colombia native and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta nurse Oscar Silva traces his passion for his profession to a tragic incident involving his father.
From early childhood, Silva remembers his father, Jesus Silva, regaling him with stories of the year or two he spent in a hospital in Bogota, Colombia’s capital.
At age 5, Jesus Silva had an accident on his grandfather’s rural farm that landed him in the hospital with a broken arm.
On the day he was released from the hospital, Jesus Silva let go of his grandfather’s hand as they were crossing a busy street. He was struck by a bus, and one of his legs was shattered.
His family lived a few hours away and couldn’t afford to travel back and forth to be at his bedside.
Jesus Silva was left alone in the hospital to face various treatment regimens and multiple surgeries.
“A group of nuns who were his aunts came to visit, but nobody else,” son Oscar said.
Some nurses who worked at the hospital would visit him on their days off and bring books, magazines, toys and cookies.
“When I was little, he used to tell me all about the nurses,” Oscar Silva said. “He still remembered their names and how loving and caring they were. That was an inspiration for me to work in the medical field.”
Oscar Silva moved with his family to Atlanta when he was about 17, hoping for a better life.
His path into health care wasn’t yet clear. In his native Colombia, men with a passion for medicine became doctors, not nurses, he said.
It wasn’t until he’d enrolled at Kennesaw State University that he realized he had the potential for a successful career as a male nurse. A speaker addressing KSU students had his master’s and PhD. in nursing, and the job of dean of the School of Nursing.
“That opened my eyes,” Silva said.
He’s been a nurse for 11 years, all at Children’s.
Silva, 34, currently works full-time in respiratory therapy at Scottish Rite. He also works two days a week in home health care.
“It is just fun and great, and I feel like I can make a difference in the lives of children just as those nurses did in my father’s life,” he said of his work at Children’s.
Kathy Tatum, manager of clinical operations at Children’s and Silva’s supervisor for more than a decade, describes him as “one nurse who really goes above and beyond for his patients.”
“He is a wonderful advocate for them, and he does more than is required every day,” Tatum said.
Since Silva is bilingual, he is often assigned to work with Hispanic patients. “He’s able to calm their fears when they don’t always know what’s going on,” Tatum said.
Silva has a real passion for the under-privileged and is a master at recruiting other staff members as volunteers on charitable endeavors. “It’s great for team-building,” Tatum said.
Silva has a Bachelor of Nursing and plans on returning to college next year to pursue his master’s degree in nursing leadership.
He hopes to inspire other young men to give nursing a chance.
Silva met his wife Karlha, a native of Venezuela, in nursing school. She also is in nursing. They have one daughter, Maria Isabel, who is eight.
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