Round Lake resident named Advocate Condell's 2021 Nurse of the Year

Nursing is all Rocio Sanchez has ever wanted to do.

A first-generation immigrant and first-generation college student, she began working toward a nursing degree while still in high school. It took years, but Sanchez earned that degree from Chamberlain College of Nursing in 2016 and soon became a clinical staff nurse for Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.

Sanchez, who is from Round Lake, said the last couple of years working through a pandemic have been stressful, but her hard work earned her recognition as Condell's 2021 Nurse of the Year. She was chosen from among more than 700 nominees on behalf of nurses from a variety of specialties.

"It's something I never would have imagined happening in my career," Sanchez said.

Nominations were submitted by clinicians and team members and reviewed by peer committees. Nominees were evaluated for their passion for patient care, commitment to service, solution-oriented abilities and evidence-based practice.

"I'm very overwhelmed," Sanchez said. "I wasn't anticipating or expecting that. It's very cliché to say, but there are a lot of amazing nurses here at Condell I personally look up to and am inspired by. To think someone would view me in that light was very overwhelming."

Advocate Aurora Health employs more than 22,000 nurses across the system's 26 acute care facilities and more than 500 sites of care.

"There's no task that she isn't afraid to tackle," Condell's chief nursing officer, Rachel Loberg, said of Sanchez in a statement. "Advocate Condell and our patients are blessed to have Rocio as a member of the nursing division."

As the pandemic unfolded, Sanchez quickly volunteered and trained to work in the emergency department and intensive care unit as part of the hospital's critical care float team.

She took on roles in shared governance and volunteered as an officer with the Hispanic Nurses Association. She also chairs Advocate Condell's internal Shared Governance Council and Professional Development Committee.

Just before the start of the pandemic, Sanchez traveled to El Salvador on a mission trip, bringing medical supplies and care to an underserved area.

"I'm very passionate about this profession," she said. "It's very distinct in that you can truly impact the life of an individual."

Sanchez said she's inspired by the experiences in her youth. She decided to become a nurse at age 7 when she accompanied her mother to an ultrasound screening where she and her brother found out they'd be having a little sister. At 16, she saw a nurse care for her mother, who'd just had a kidney removed. She remembers how the nurse made her mother feel so comfortable.

"I just realized the impact of a nurse," Sanchez said. "They can truly leave an imprint on a patient. When patients are here, they're in the most vulnerable of states."

She hopes to set a good example for her three children, 13-year-old twin sons and an 11-year-old daughter.

Getting through the pandemic has taken coping skills and resources nurses are trained to use, said Sanchez, who only recently contracted a mild case of COVID-19. Whether it's getting enough sleep, exercise, the right nutrition or using other coping mechanisms, nurses must take care of themselves first before they can care for their patients, she said.

"Although the times were full of fear and the unknown, especially at the beginning, and they were stressful," she said, "having that strong feeling of teamwork and of everyone coming together ... being flexible and being there for one another was impactful."

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.