As a child, Lydia Valdez’ father called her his “little nurse. Little did he know that the loving nickname was to chart a course for her life – she’s now a registered nurse in LVMC’s Perinatal Services Department, or Labor and Delivery. The nickname was apt, as Lydia cared for her father, Ray, during his final stages of congestive heart failure, prior to his death at age 45.  She was 12 when he died, and was his preferred caregiver.

“If he was having a bad day, he’d say, ‘Just keep Lydia home to take care of me,’” she recalled. “I read every nursing book I could find. I was so in love with nursing. I was so excited to get here and be hired here. Lompoc Hospital was like my second home.”

Born in San Bernardino, Lydia moved to Lompoc when she was 14 and graduated from Lompoc High School.  In 1984, she began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the hospital and Comprehensive Care Center.

“I was so happy to be here,” she said. “I knew what I wanted to do.”

Eventually, after about four years, she became a Licensed Vocational Nurse, doing all her clinical training at the hospital She worked for about 18 years in the medical-surgical unit while also raising two children with her husband of almost 40 years. She then moved to the Perinatal Services Department, working in labor and delivery with new moms and babies.

“They wanted me as an LVN in OB,” she recalls. “I loved what I did. You see a lot of things in med-surg. But it was a good time to transition to OB.”

She became a registered nurse in 2007.

“I can’t believe I’m actually a Registered Nurse,” she said of the feeling of accomplishment. “I still feel that awe … I never wanted to do anything else.”

She’s now earning her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.

While in OB, Lydia began taking courses to increase her knowledge of newborns and breastfeeding. She studied to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or IBCLC. The specialized certification requires her to recertify this year after an additional 90 hours of training.

As an IBCLC, Lydia helps facilitate LVMC’s weekly Breastfeeding Mothers Support Group on Fridays and is one of the cadre of nurses who ensures each new mother is seen before being discharged, to ensure any breastfeeding questions are answered.

 “I’m looking forward to advancing our breastfeeding program,” she said. “It’s so sorely needed in this community.”

She laughs that she’s jokingly called the “boob whisperer,” because she is extraordinarily successful in getting newborns latched to their mother’s breast.

“It’s such a huge thing in making sure very mother is seen,” by a consultant, Lydia said. “We’re assisting them in bringing new life to our community. These are our future generations and every birth is an absolute miracle.”