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Nurses Week Profile: Gloria Barrera, School Nurse and Environmental Health Advocate

Today’s Nurses Week Profile follows Gloria Barrera, a certified school nurse and adjunct professor of nursing, and her work in addressing environmental health in her nursing practice and community.

As a public health nurse, Gloria Barrera stresses a healthy environment as being key to a healthy life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies asthma as a leading chronic illness and cause of absenteeism in school-aged children and adolescents. As a school nurse in Illinois she was noticing an increase in the amount of students with asthma. “On average, in a classroom of 30, about 3 students are likely to have asthma”, Gloria states. To address this concern, through her work with the Illinois Association of School Nurses, she has focused on ensuring better management of asthma in schools and in educating about the impact of air quality on student health.

Additionally, Gloria highlights how exposure to poor air quality impacts health by contributing to adverse outcomes such as premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular and respiratory harm. “Action to decrease air pollution is a public health priority to create healthy environments for all”, Gloria indicates when discussing the health impacts of poor air quality. Active in both the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN), Gloria frequently speaks to legislators on the need to for strong policy that improves air quality. She has met with elected officials to advocate for methane emission regulations to reduce air pollution from oil and gas production and other polices that would improve air quality for communities, especially for children and among the Hispanic community.

Locally she has been vocal about the importance of addressing environmental health in nursing and public health practice through her involvement with the Illinois chapter of NAHN and the Illinois Public Health Association. As an adjunct faculty she is preparing the next generation of nurses to understand how the environment impacts health and the role that nurses can play in addressing critical issues. Barrera highlights, “In my teaching, I make it a point to note the critical nature of our environment and how we, as nurses, must stand up and advocate for our patients and the populations we serve.”

Gloria E. Barrera, MSN, RN, PEL-CSN is a certified school nurse and adjunct professor of nursing at DePaul University, Chamberlain College of Nursing, and Capella University, and has provided exceptional nursing care to over 3000 students and staff members in similar roles for nearly a decade.

Barrera was recognized as a “40 Under 40 Emerging Nurse Leader” Awardee in 2016 through the American Nurses Association-IL, and in 2017 through the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. She was the recipient of EverThrive’s Illinois’ Dr. Garry Gardner’s Health Care Provider Award in 2017.

Barrera serves on two committees for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). In 2016, she was chosen to represent public health in DC and speak to lawmakers on behalf of ANHE in regards to methane emission regulation.

She is committed to being a lifelong learner and will continue her efforts in improving child health in the community through her practice and teaching.

Barrera holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Saint Xavier University, and a master’s degree in nursing from Olivet Nazarene University.