Nancy Carranza, LCSW, CCTSW, has been a social worker at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital for 15 years.
She serves as a support system to young patients and their families, guiding them through the financial, emotional and physical aspects of illness, treatment and recovery. She’s in an exclusive position of being able to relate to both parents and kids.
“My middle child has Crohn’s disease and has been treated at Joe DiMaggio for the last seven years (he’s 17), Nancy says. I understand what these parents go through when it comes to that medical piece. I’ve been through it myself. I have that total empathetic side of it. That’s what makes me unique. I can advocate for both sides. I never realized how being in the parents’ shoes makes such a difference when you work there as well.”
Her main focus is the kidney unit, which includes dialysis and transplantations, but also serves as a backup social worker for the cardiac transplant unit. She says she appreciates the time dialysis requires because it allows her to build relationships grounded in trust, respect and understanding.
“Imagine going to dialysis three times a week. You have to leave school early or miss school. They’re teenagers, so they get very frustrated. Forget the illness; you know how moody they get. We try to get them to do groups together to give them as much of a normal life as possible,” she says.
Nancy grew up in Miami, the youngest of three born to Guatemalan immigrants. She always liked helping people; she was the friend that everyone would come to for advice. Even today, she carries an air of comfortability and safety. Her house is the designated hangout for her six kids and their friends.
She considered pursuing a career in psychology until she discovered that social work would allow her to work with a broader population. Nancy received her master’s degree from Barry University and began her career working with drug-addicted teenagers. She transitioned to the behavioral health unit, where she helped both adolescents and adults. She really wanted to be a NICU social worker, though, because she had given birth to two preemies – the first at age 19 and the second at age 23.
Ultimately, JoeD allowed Nancy the opportunity to gain insight into many medical arenas. Being bilingual has also been a great asset when communicating with Spanish-speaking transplant patients.
“I like that I’ve been able to work in so many different positions. I’ve been able to experience the whole system – Community Youth Services, in-patient psych and now JoeD. They’re all very different, but no matter what part of the system you’re in, they have the same core value: family first, patient first. That’s one thing that I love about the system,” she says.
Because organ donation is so important to her, Nancy encourages the Girl Scout troop she leads to participate in fundraising and awareness projects. She started the troop seven years ago, not knowing what she was getting herself into. It’s turned out to be a fantastic platform for teaching young girls about social responsibility and self-confidence.
“We help out the homeless, we’ve done dialysis parties helping with decorations and different activities; we do a lot of community volunteer stuff to bring awareness to organ donations. I’ve seen them go from these shy little girls to these outspoken girls. They stay focused on the positive when they’re with me – not the peer pressure stuff,” Nancy says.
When she’s not working, volunteering or wrangling Girl Scouts, Nancy likes to hit Disneyworld or go camping. Upbeat and energetic, she’s always ready to go.
“My motto has always been, ‘After the storm, a rainbow always comes out.’”