Harper College will hold its "Celebration Ceremony" on Saturday, when they pin their nursing students and honor the newest members of the health care profession.
Among the group will be Patryk Gusciora of Schaumburg, a former paramedic and current Army reservist who will realize a long-held dream.
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"I enjoyed being a paramedic, but I always felt like we were diagnosing the patient, but not getting to treat them," Gusciora said. "I went into nursing so that I could care for patients during their illness, and their family."
He and his classmates will graduate next month and get ready to start their exciting new careers. But Gusciora will be remembered long after graduation, in at least one of his clinical rotations: the Northwest Oncology Group at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates.
Last month, Gusciora completed the Chicago Marathon for the fifth successive year, but this year, he raised money for the American Cancer Society. He dedicated his run to helping cancer patients, in part, after working with the oncology nurses at Northwest Oncology.
In the weeks following the race, he had his marathon medal mounted on a plaque as well as an acknowledgment to the Northwest Oncology nursing team, thanking them for their support of Harper students.
"We just learned so much from them about how to care for cancer patients," Gusciora said. "They really went above and beyond to help Harper students."
Karen Chandra, an associate professor of nursing, says clinical rotations are the capstone to Harper's program. After students complete a curriculum of science and theory courses, the clinical courses allow them to apply what they have learned.
"We utilize hospitals, nursing homes, doctors' offices and other community experiences to ensure the application of nursing theory to clinical care," Chandra says.
Chandra herself teaches Advanced Medical Surgical Nursing, whose content includes caring for patients with complex medical and critical care needs.
The associated clinical component utilizes hospital units such as intensive care, emergency room, cardiac units with telemetry monitoring, oncology inpatient units, and private outpatient doctor offices to enhance students' experiences.
Northwest Oncology Group is one of the private practices that partners with Harper's nursing program, and has locations at St. Alexius, Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village and Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington.
Through working side by side with its nurses, students like Gusciora saw firsthand the differences between inpatient oncology care and the reality of cancer treatment in the outpatient arena.
"The majority of cancer patients are being treated in these outpatient facilities," Chandra says, "Many patients receive their treatment, continue to work and remain active in the community.
"Oncology nurses are vital to helping decrease symptoms of disease as well as decreasing the side effects of their chemotherapy," she adds. "They are their cheerleaders, caring for them when they need individualized care and support the most."
Most recently, Gusciora had an internship in the Emergency Department at St. Alexius, and consequently he might start his career in emergency care nursing. But given his positive experience with the Northwest Oncology nurses, he says, working in oncology now is definitely something he would like to pursue.