Caring Under Pressure: A Nurse's Journey Nora Fabrigar, RN

Working in the behavioral health unit of a hospital can be one of the most demanding and rewarding experiences for a nurse. It takes a special kind of nurse to effectively care for and support the individuals who come through the unit’s doors. At Adventist Health White Memorial, one such nurse is Nora Fabrigar, RN a veteran in the behavioral health unit who has been helping those in need for nearly 20 years.  

Holding handsWorking with a diverse group of patients, Nora faces a unique set of daily challenges — from calming a panicking patient to creating a nurturing and calm environment for them to relax. She understands that while the work can be mentally and emotionally taxing, she is making a real difference in the lives of those in her care. 

Originally from Mindanao, the second-largest island in the Philippines, Nora learned compassion and what it means to serve from her father. He was a leader in their community. As a young girl, Nora watched in awe as her father helped people with his gentle resolve and calm tenacity, scouring every avenue to ensure no one was left behind. He was an inspiration, and Nora found herself wanting to emulate him. That’s why she became a nurse. 

“It’s cliché, but for me, it’s the truth. I really love to help people because of my father,” Nora recounts. “My father’s example illustrated the joy of giving and fulfillment.”  

Nora completed nursing school in 1980 and became a community health nurse. She made house calls to educate people on health and disease prevention. After working as a nurse for four years in Mindanao, Nora challenged herself by taking a nursing job in the Sultanate of Oman in 1986. Later, in 1999, she worked as an emergency room nurse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, until she immigrated to Los Angeles in 2004. 

She came to live with her uncle and aunt, Levi and Rebecca Fabrigar, both of whom had been connected at Adventist Health White Memorial for nearly 40 years. 

Levi trained as a Med Tech at White Memorial in the 1960s. At the time, the training program was managed by Loma Linda University. He wished to further his career at Adventist Health White Memorial, but found a job at another organization that was more conducive to work and family schedules.  

Rebecca was part of the original Coronary Care Unit founded in 1961. She retired from Adventist Health White Memorial after 40 years of service. Together, Rebecca and Levi operated Sunlight Guest Home, a 71-bed board and care facility for the mentally ill in the Pico-Vermont neighborhood of Los Angeles. Nora assisted Rebecca and Levi for a year at the Sunlight Guest Home. It completely changed her perspective of individuals struggling with mental illness. 

Watching her Aunt Rebecca comfort and nurture her resident patients, swiftly adapting to circumstances with her deep pool of knowledge to treat emotional, behavioral and learning disabilities, captivated Nora. She soon assisted with patient care by administering medication and talking with residents. There was Louis, an introverted gentleman who never said a word to Nora for six months, but when she cut her hair, he noticed and said, “Hey, Nora, you cut your hair — PRETTY!” There was also David, a large man, who always wanted to hug Nora, something she had to learn to accept.  

Because of these positive outcomes of such daunting work, Nora decided to follow in her aunt’s footsteps and pursue a career as a behavioral health nurse. To this day, Nora is grateful for the opportunity Adventist Health White Memorial provided her. At the time she applied, she did not have experience at an acute-care hospital within behavioral health, and she found life-long fulfillment at Adventist Health White Memorial.  

“I learned that when you take care of a person from the heart, you treat them as human, they will respect you,” Nora says. “We should not be scared of them. And that’s where I’m coming from, and that’s how I saw my aunt.” 

Like her uncle and aunt, Nora became a devout Seventh-day Adventist, which was a big part of why she joined Adventist Health White Memorial’s behavioral health unit as a nurse in 2005.  

“White Memorial was different from the other hospitals,” Nora says about why she wanted to work here. “We have a different vision. We have a different purpose. My greatest wish for White Memorial really is to achieve the goal that people will learn from not only healing through medication, but that they learn healthy lifestyle choices. And through our faith-driven mission, we address the importance of spirituality in the healing process,” Nora says.  

Today, her job is to assess and provide care for each person, regardless of their condition. With her years of experience, she’s learned how to balance her calmness with vigilance and good teamwork. She observes each patient and tries to look through their struggles and focus on their needs.  

Throughout her life, Nora has embodied the unyielding spirit, selflessness and dedication that all Adventist Health White Memorial nurses hold dear. She has deep-seated empathy for individuals who are the most vulnerable. For example, Nora volunteers her time to manage homeless clothing donations within the behavioral health unit. She is proof that people can find strength and purpose through service. For Nora, that purpose is clear: to provide the best possible physical, emotional and spiritual care for those in need and, ultimately, to make a difference in the lives of her patients. 

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