Louisianian of the Year | Healthcare
Growing up in Houma, Annie Barahona dreamed of working in the medical field. When it came time to decide on a career path, Barahona chose nursing. Sixteen years after starting her nursing journey, the Louisiana State Nurses Association named Barahona the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse of the Year.
Barahona, 39, is a nurse practitioner with the South Central Louisiana Human Services Authority. While she has been a nurse for 16 years, she has been a nurse practitioner for eight. A nurse practitioner can prescribe medicine, perform physicals and provide a number of other basic healthcare services. Barahona provides primary care services in an integrated facility. What does that mean? She sees mental health patients, many of whom have never received primary care of any kind. She’s able to diagnose and help treat common problems like diabetes that these patients never knew they had.
Barahona also spearheaded a medical assisted treatment program. This program helps her clients free themselves from opiate and alcohol addiction in an outpatient setting. The results are often rewarding.
“When they get clean, it’s the most amazing thing,” Barahona said. “It’s nice to see the hope they have in their eyes.”
It has been a challenging couple of years for nurses in general, but particularly for Barahona. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person contact was discouraged, she had to learn how to do televisits with her patients. This proved to be an even more useful skill in 2021 when Hurricane Ida devastated South Central Louisiana. Barahona’s home clinic is in Houma, but she works in multiple parishes in South Central Louisiana. Many of her clients have been displaced, but through telemedicine she is able to help them even if they have not yet been able to come home.
Nursing can be a burnout profession even in normal times. But given the events of the past two years, even more nurses have felt the mental strain. Barahona said it’s her connection to her patients that keeps her from burning out.
“I still love nursing. I still love talking to clients, getting to know them and their families,” Barahona said. “People notice when you truly care. You have to want to be there for your patients, to be an advocate for them.”
When she’s not practicing medicine, Barahona spends time with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. They love traveling, especially road trips to Florida’s beaches.