Behind orthopaedic nurse Paulina Andujo' s contagious smile lies not only a compassionate caregiver but also a unique talent.
"I DJ on the side; it's my creative outlet," Andujo said. "It's my therapy."
Growing up in Sunray, Texas, a rural town with a current population under 2,000 people, Andujo learned the meaning of community and developed a knack for caring for others.
"I was always the caregiver; I was always the one taking care of my brother and sister if they got hurt," said Andujo. "When my brother broke his arm, I was his personal nurse. I was 6 years old."
After graduating high school, Andujo went on to receive her nursing degree from Texas Woman's University. She would ultimately move to Los Angeles to be a nurse and to also enroll in a DJ school.
Serving as a clinical joint surgery manager for the Joint Replacement Program, Andujo interacts with patients through virtual and in-person education before and after they have any type of joint replacement surgery.
"We help build a relationship with patients from the moment they walk through the door, and we want them to know they have someone they can contact when they get home," said Andujo. "I think it helps ease their anxiety because they know if they have a question, they can call us, and we'll be here to help."
While Andujo had always had an ear for music and a desire to become a DJ, it was a skill she would have to learn as a beginner.
"I didn't know anything about DJing; I just knew that I liked it," she said. "I began learning to DJ the minute I walked in, and I fell in love with it. It's still something that I continue to practice all the time."
Affectionally known as DJ Pau Pau, Andujo says she finds a connection to others and herself through music.
"Music moves people and it's something that can connect us, even if you don't understand the language or the lyrics," said Andujo. "I really liked connecting to the music and then using it to communicate to others."
For Andujo, learning the craft of DJing served both as therapy and a meditation tool during the COVID-19 pandemic—the only time she felt helpless as a nurse.
"It definitely helped me get through the pandemic,” she said. “It was where I would go to get out of my head and de-stress.”
DJing didn't only help Andujo. Her talent helped other nurses throughout California when she participated in a live Zoom party with a performance for nurses.
"Everyone was having a good time dancing," said Andujo. "It was a way of connecting again in a way that we hadn't in a long time because of the pandemic, and it was so fun."
Andujo was recently elected to serve on the executive board for the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses and shares her nursing expertise through her global volunteer work with Operation Walk, a volunteer medical humanitarian organization that provides the gift of mobility through life-changing joint replacement surgeries.
From Guatemala to Nicaragua and most recently Cuba, Andujo has been on seven medical trips for Operation Walk.
"Being able to go on these trips and see what a difference surgery can make for someone, it's really rewarding and fulfilling," said Andujo. "I don't know what I would be doing if I weren't a nurse. This is what I'm supposed to do."
Through it all, Andujo is grateful for the supportive environment she receives back home.
"Cedars-Sinai is very supportive of nurses," said Andujo. "They empower nurses to go back to school, get involved with research, volunteer and, of course, pursue our own personal passions."
Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: A Family Tradition: Three Generations of Nursing Care