Tina Marie Romero: Caregiving is from the heart

‘There is a big problem here in the U.S. with caregiver shortage and with quality of care.’

The American Dream entered Tina Marie Romero’s consciousness as a young girl growing up in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental. In fact, she confessed to the excitement of opening balikbayan boxes sent by cousins working as nurses in the US. America came in these boxes, through the cornucopia of Oreos, Cabbage Patch kids and Nine West purses.

“I grew up with a strong U.S. colonial mentality,” she said in an interview. “I adored everything American.”

Her father, a veterinarian, was the first to emigrate to the U.S. When the sugar industry collapsed in the 1980s, her father’s veterinary hospital and agricultural supply store in Bacolod City was gravely affected. Tina Marie joined him in 1996 when she was 26 years old.

She is now the CEO of Synergy HomeCare, a franchise business located in Central New Jersey.

“We are a non-medical homecare agency,” she told The FilAm. “I provide home health aides for seniors and all your loved ones needing care at home or in facilities.” She added that she may not have a healthcare background but what she has is just as or even more important: “The heart to care for seniors.”

Tina Marie’s favorite aphorism has served as her guiding star: You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone.

Her first job in the U.S. was in a hotel chain in NJ where she worked the front desk and had to deal with demanding customers who yelled and cursed at her. Coming from a highly respected job in the Philippines dealing with top corporate executives, it was a big culture shock.

Tina Marie’s discomfort with her first job in the US turned out to be a good training ground for her next job in the Accounting department of a boutique hotel group in New York City. When she uncovered internal fraud and theft, Tina was audacious enough to confront the perpetrator and be unafraid of the repercussions.

With her eyes always focused on the American Dream, she wanted to experience working in Corporate America. At that time, a lot of her friends in NYC worked in IT at headquarters of large U.S. corporations.

She went for her Certification in Computer Programming and got her first IT job in a large insurance company. She went to graduate school in the evenings and earned a dual MBA and MA in Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University.

Her heart was set on becoming an entrepreneur just like her father. She spent time doing due diligence on franchise business options while moonlighting in her father’s animal hospital in Queens.

Meanwhile, Tina has been volunteering in her parish visiting homebound seniors and made deep friendships with them. One in particular was a neighbor who became her “Grandpa Joe.” After work each day, Tina and her dog Snowball sat at his porch, talking about the events of the day and listening to him complain about everything. “At that time, I already knew how much joy it gave me to spend time with Grandpa Joe” she said.

This made it clear for her to start her Synergy HomeCare business in 2014. It’s been a steady success for the past six years. At the height of the pandemic in 2020 she decided to buy out her business partner. “It was my biggest life decision.”

Tina saw the challenges in the caregiving industry. “There is a big problem here in the U.S. with caregiver shortage and an even bigger problem with the quality of care. Home Health Aide Certification here in the U.S. only takes three weeks of classes whereas it takes six months in the Philippines. It is my dream to bring in caregivers from the Philippines. It will not only benefit our seniors who need them but it will elevate the lives of Filipino caregivers,” she said.

Her dream is for American seniors to experience “compassionate care at the end of their lives, in the hands of Filipino caregivers,” she said.

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