The Freedom Nurse

There are a lot of paths that people take before landing in workers’ compensation as a profession. Most paths are unexpected and mostly underwhelming. Not so for Cynthia Ortiz, Captain in the U.S. Army and Utilization Review Nurse for Risico Total Managed Care. Her journey to workers’ compensation has been nothing short of heroic and in the purest form of service via an accomplished military career in the U.S. Army Reserves.

Captain Cynthia Ortiz’s military service career began when she was seventeen years old, a junior in high school. Motivated by the love of her country and the military’s promise to support young recruits with higher education opportunities and funding, she made the courageous decision to enlist. Thirty years and five deployments later, she stands at the door of retirement of her military career gazing back on her years of service with immeasurable pride and gratitude.

Her ability to fulfill her commitment to the U.S. military, and thrive over the years has been made possible by the support of her biological family and her work family. Cynthia is married to her high school sweetheart of twenty-eight years and has a fifteen-year-old son, a twenty-five-year-old daughter, and a four-year-old granddaughter. She has been employed by Risico Total Managed Care for nearly twelve years and has been deployed twice during her tenure at the Utilization Review Organization (URO) – once for nine months to Central America and once for three years domestically as part of Homeland Security.

“The support of my family at home, and my family at work, has been greatly influential in my ability to give my very best to the country I love and the individual soldiers that I’ve served over the years. The value they’ve placed on what I do has allowed me to realize one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life in service to the troops,” says Cynthia.

Cynthia wears many hats in the Army Reserves. Her career started as a paramedic, a Staff Sargent for twenty years, and currently serves as a surgical nurse, an Officer of the U.S. Army (Captain) for the past ten years. Cynthia has held leadership positions ranging from Commander, providing medical readiness training, establishing and setting up field hospitals, as well as offering counseling to the troops.

Cynthia recalls, “As a child, I always felt a strong sense of fulfillment when nursing and caring for people, as well as animals.”

Her innate love of animals initially drew her to consider becoming a veterinarian. However, the educational path to obtain a four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) was longer than what Cynthia was comfortable with.

Having grown up in a family surrounded by professionals in the medical and nursing fields, she witnessed first-hand the level of fulfillment that can come from nursing ill, or injured individuals, back to health. It was this first-hand exposure that inspired Cynthia to pursue a profession in nursing.

Her introduction to workers’ compensation and utilization review came by way of her husband, who works in the physical therapy field. She knew quickly that workers’ compensation would provide opportunities for her to do what she’s passionate about by helping make the journey to recovery smoother and easier for injured workers.

Kind, caring, benevolent, compassionate. These are just a few words that are used to describe Captain Cynthia Ortiz by individuals who know her best. With these personality traits, it should surprise no one that she not only enjoys serving her country, but is passionate about the humanitarian efforts that the Army coordinates and deploys abroad.

Cynthia’s most recent deployment placed her in the heart of Central America. Her group was tasked with providing medical care and screenings to remotely located communities, throughout Honduras, Guatemala, Columbia, El Salvador, Panama, and Costa Rica, where routine care was not readily available. They administered care for minor medical procedures and provided important medications to local nationals, civilians, and local military personnel assigned to support Cynthia’s group.

“The humanitarian services that the U.S. Army Reserves provides beyond our borders is my favorite aspect of serving this great country. Most times, the troops providing the service to the locals get as much, if not more, out of the experience. There are moments that I will fondly remember for the rest of my life.” states Cynthia.

One such moment that Cynthia shared was during her time in Central America. Her group was assigned to visit and deliver medical care and supplies to a community so remotely located making ground transportation impossible. Army choppers were used to transport Army personnel and the supplies needed to deliver the aide.

Upon wrapping up and preparing to depart for the evening, Cynthia and her colleagues learned that choppers were being held back due to the extreme rainy weather. The troops were forced to scramble and were able to set up for the night in a local clinic.

“Within ten to fifteen minutes of learning that we were stranded, local families began to bring us blankets, mattresses, and other items to make our stay comfortable. They didn’t have much, but each family joyfully gave of the little they had to feed us – 1 egg, a little bit of sausage,” recalled Cynthia. With tears swelling up in her eyes she continued, “They did not hesitate to share of little they had. And, they did it willingly and happily. I will never forget that experience.”

Cynthia confesses that retiring from a military career that spans three decades is going to be challenging. She will miss the troops, the service, and the sense of fulfillment that it brought. Her family, on the other hand, will be glad to know that she will no longer be called away for extended periods of time for potentially dangerous assignments.

Amy Skinner, Director of Nursing for Risico Total Managed Care, states, “Our whole team is so very proud of Cynthia. She is as dedicated to her job in utilization review as she is with her role in the Army. I’m very humbled by the sacrifices she has made for our country, especially in the time of the pandemic. Thank you, Cynthia!”

It would not be an overstatement to say that Cynthia is a real-life hero – a freedom nurse.

As an organization, we are immensely proud of her accomplishments. We are humbled and honored that an individual with her character, compassion, and commitment to service tirelessly advocates for injured workers on the front lines of workers’ compensation.

This Fourth of July, Risico celebrates Captain Cynthia Ortiz and every other workers’ compensation professional who serves, or has served, in the U.S. Armed Forces. Thank you for your service and thank you for inspiring us all.

Categories: Inspiration, Managed Care, Utilization Review

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