For the media

PT returns to work at hospital where she was born

By The Health News Team | August 30, 2023
Marianna Muratalla of San Diego with her dog, Dolly

Mariana with her fur baby, Dolly.

Mariana Muratalla keeps a timeworn picture of herself as a newborn — her mom cradling her in her arms — taken just after her birth 30 years ago at Coronado’s only community hospital. Muratalla’s not sure whether the exact patient room still exists, but she hopes to find it one day. It’s just one small, though meaningful, connection the newly graduated physical therapy assistant (PTA) has to Sharp Coronado Hospital, the place she now works.

“I have a sense of family here, of familiarity,” says Muratalla. “Even coming here when I was a young girl for the weekends with my parents, they’d say, ‘You were born there,’ as they’d point to the hospital.”

Little did Muratalla know then that decades later, she’d end up working as a caregiver at the very same hospital.

Marianna Muratalla as a baby at Sharp Coronado Hospital

Marianna Muratalla with her mom at the former Coronado Community Hospital, now Sharp Coronado Hospital.

A home away from home

Muratalla started working at Sharp Coronado five years ago as an inpatient rehabilitation aide. She served alongside many of the therapists who work throughout the hospital campus — from the Villa Coronado Skilled Nursing Facility and subacute care, to occupational, physical and speech therapies. It’s her work in speech therapy where she says she always felt she most made a difference.

“Since I am bilingual, I can help all of the Spanish-speaking patients in speech therapy,” Muratalla says. “I can help them to understand things you can’t quite get from a translation program or app.”

However, physical therapy is not a career path she knew she’d take. Muratalla was originally a college psychology major but sensed she should explore other fields. She was taking a few general education courses at Grossmont Community College to see what might spark her interest and needed just one unit to complete her schedule. She took a kinesiology class on a whim and found herself intrigued by the course work. “I was like, ‘this is amazing!’” she says.

Muratalla would end up earning a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology a few years later at California State University, Los Angeles, before starting as an aide at Sharp Coronado.

Then COVID-19 entered the picture.

“I knew I wanted to further my education, but it was also important to keep working during the pandemic to make sure I had health insurance.” Muratalla says. “So, I worked part time at Sharp Coronado while I went back to school.”

Refusing to allow challenges to slow her progression

Muratalla says she attended Mesa College with her eyes set on earning a degree as a PTA, which was a two-year program. She was able to keep her job as an aide at the hospital while performing clinical rotations at Villa Coronado. It was during this time that she was also able to pick up some work as an aide inside the operating rooms.

“This experience opened so many doors for me at the hospital,” Muratalla says. “I literally had access to experiencing what takes place during surgeries and getting to work with our joint replacement patients who I would treat in the rehab department after their surgery.”

As she was preparing to graduate, Muratalla received some great news: She was offered a job at Sharp Coronado as a PTA.

“That offer meant everything,” Muratalla says. “It meant they appreciated everything I had been doing. I know that I have a strong work ethic. And as a Capricorn, I like to get things done. I was like ‘Yes!’”

The decision to accept the position, Muratalla says, was easy to make. She has always felt supported by her manager, fellow physical therapists and the operating room team. She enjoys coming to work each day and isn’t bothered by the one-hour commute — each way — from Tecate, Mexico.

“I focus on the good things — that it’s nice that I have my own patients now,” Muratalla says. “I love having that responsibility and having that connection with patients, especially Spanish-speaking patients because we understand one another. The human connection we share in our native language is so important, and I know it makes them more comfortable.”

The value of education

As she looks back on her journey returning to her birthplace — her home away from home — and what it took to get here, Muratalla shares she’s a huge advocate of getting a higher education. You may have hard days and you may have long days, she says, but it’s worth it in the end.

“To anyone thinking about going back to school or pursuing a higher degree, I encourage you to do it — 100%,” Muratalla says. “I know you don’t have to get a degree to be successful, but it feels good to learn. Plus, having a degree opens so many doors to gain knowledge and experience. If I can do it, you can do it,” she says.

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