He told me that he ‘would trust his life in my hands’. Rachelle Valenzuela, Ritter Center Clinic Manager
Rachelle manages Ritter Center’s Federally Qualified Health Center. Her clinic team provides over 2,500 patients every year with primary medical care.
“Watching people come in and begin to heal and blossom into even more beautiful versions of themselves once they get the help they need through Ritter Center is part of what makes this place feel so magical to me,” said Rachelle Valenzuela, Ritter Center Clinic Manager.
“Fourteen years ago, I lost my high school sweetheart who died of an intentional overdose, and I am familiar with intense grief and loss and what people can do to themselves in a desperate attempt to survive. This is why and how I can connect to our clients. With my deeply personal experiences, I can genuinely show our clients that I hold a safe space for them. They connect to me and we can work together.”
Originally, Rachelle thought she’d be a massage therapist and she did work as one for quite some time. But because her mom ran a private psychiatric office with multiple practitioners, she also knew first-hand the power of solid psychiatric support.
“I grew up without a lot of extra resources, but my parents fought to give me the life they wanted to have themselves. When my dad got into a terrible motorcycle accident, he suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him with anger management issues due to his frontal lobe impact. That put us all on an emotional roller coaster and I knew from that lived experience that my life needed to have purpose with whatever I ended up doing,” shared Rachelle.
“I am blessed to work as a medical assistant and as a drug and alcohol counselor because my life experience directly ties into deep connections with our patients and clients.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”― Maya Angelou.
That quote is one of Rachelle’s favorites.
“If I can create a safe space for someone – even just for 5 minutes – I can change their life. I can save their life. I try to remember to always smile at the person that looks angry because you don’t know what they are going through at that moment in time on that very day,” urges Rachelle.
“I knew something was missing from my work. I came to Ritter Center and I knew immediately that I was home.”
Rachelle appreciates the links between social services and the medical clinic. It’s amazing how every single employee at Ritter Center works as part of a team to bridge each component together as one.
“Whole Person Care clients and case management clients are also patients at the medical clinic. It might not be stitches in a wound, but it is still health care. Our medical clinic is a big part of Whole Person Care at Ritter Center,” notes Rachelle. “It’s connecting those dots that helps everyone heal.”
Healing comes naturally to Rachelle. “I was born an empath. I always joke with my clients that they can’t lie to me. I can actually feel their energy without turning around,” shares Rachelle. “I particularly enjoy teaching anger management and trauma processing at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in another role I serve in apart from Ritter Center.” “We do so much more than medical assisting here at Ritter Center. It feels sometimes like divine intervention. Sure, a job can only mean that you go to work to make money and to survive. But this is so very different. I look forward to coming to work every day, and that’s a game changer. It can be stressful but it is fulfilling stress. I am creating roots here. I plan to stay; I believe in the mission,” says Rachelle.
“Let me tell you a story. When I first began working at Ritter Center, a client came in and said ‘I hate all of you’ and I replied that he couldn’t include me in that statement because I had only started a week ago. I told him that I would make him a deal. I explained that I was determined to win him over. Every time I saw him, I’d check in with him. He started noticing. Long story short, I was able to convince him to get vaccinated but only on the contingency that I gave him the vaccine. He told me that he ‘would trust his life in my hands’ and that meant the world to me. It’s beautiful that we are able to give our clients the trust they never had before in their lives.”