In April 2010, I was diagnosed with stage 3B rectal cancer. This diagnosis came as a big surprise to me as well as my doctors, family and friends. The recommendation for colorectal cancer screening begins starting at age 50. So when I started having symptoms for this disease at age 36, the possibility that it may be colorectal cancer, at first, was at the bottom of my list.
My symptoms started in December 2009. John and I had taken a road trip down to visit my family in Florida. While I was there, I noticed that I had become constipated. I associated this with being in a car for long periods of time and not eating well while traveling. This persisted on and off even after we came back from Florida.
Somewhere between January and February 2010, I started noticing some blood in my stool. Since nine out of 10 people who are diagnosed are over the age of 50, I thought it could be anything but colorectal cancer. This concerned me, but I was still having constipation, so I assumed I had possibly done some internal damage that was causing this occasional bleeding.
Rush University Medical Center is widely recognized as a leader in nursing excellence, and that leadership starts early.
The Illinois Nurses Foundation and the Illinois Healthcare Action Coalition recently chose eight nurses and nursing faculty members at Rush for the organization’s inaugural 40 Under 40 Emerging Nurse Leader Award winners. Only one other institution in Illinois had more than one nurse who received the award, which was given to honor leadership and commitment well beyond the nurses’ years.
Learn more about the nurses and the work they do:
Monique Reed, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Community Systems and Mental Health Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing. Reed’s research work focuses on identifying interventions to address the high rates of obesity in African-American daughters and mothers, as well as identifying best teaching strategies for nursing faculty to use in teaching students culturally competent care.
Natalie Velazquez, RN, assistant unit director and operating room nurse, Rush University Medical Center.Velazquez started a chapter of the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses at Rush and has been president of the chapter for more than a year. She has a passion for volunteer work, initiating a winter coat and mittens drive for children in need. She also is quick to act: Velazquez recently took initiative in a code blue — an alert at a hospital when a patient is in need of resuscitation — and performed chest compressions on a patient.
Christine Tatom, MSN, RN, CCRN, intensive care unit, Rush Oak Park Hospital. Tatom has made her mark in the community with her volunteer work for the Village of Oak Park and Rush Oak Park Hospital, where she holds several committee leadership roles. She dedicates her time to the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry and the village’s Emergency Response Team and Medical Response Corp. In addition, she spends time educating new nursing graduates.
Amber S. Kujath, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Adult Health and Gerontological Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing. Kujath has served as an officer in the local chapter of the National Association of Orthopaedics and is involved heavily in the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board. She has also served as an item writer for the registered nurse certification exam and is on the recertification committee. Her work also includes time with the American Diabetes Association summer camp program for children with Type 1 diabetes.
Jennifer M. Grenier, MSN, RN-BC, director, Telemetry and Resource Team, Rush Oak Park Hospital. Grenier sees the empowerment of her staff of nurses as a direct way to advocate for higher levels of patient care. She has spearheaded many initiatives, including the creation of a daily report card for patients and families outlining the treatment plan and providing needed education. Most recently, Grenier has taken the lead on Rush Oak Park Hospital’s surplus project, which donates food not used at the hospital to a local food pantry.
Michelle Heyland, DNP, APN, nursing faculty member for Community, Systems and Mental Health Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing. Just one year after graduating as a nurse practitioner, Heyland assumed a leadership role at a progressive community mental health organization, Turning Point. There, she helped create a crisis center that supports individuals through difficult times while minimizing emergency department visits and psychiatric hospitalization. The model, called the Living Room, served 87 individuals during 228 visits during its first year. People were diverted from making emergency department trips on 213 occasions, representing a savings of approximately $550,000 to the state of Illinois.
Nicole Murphy, surgical intensive care unit nurse, Rush University Medical Center. After a long-time surgical intensive care unit nurse passed away due to cancer, Murphy’s work with the SICU Recognition and Morale Committee helped create the Nurses Helping Nurses Foundation to support nurses and their families in times of need. The foundation helps nurses financially, memorializes nurses who have died and supports those who have suffered losses.
Fawn A. Cothran, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Adult Health and Gerontological Nursing, Rush University College of Nursing. Cothran is working to help black caregivers for people with dementia. She is developing culturally tailored interventions to promote these caregivers’ physical and mental health, and in turn to improve quality of care for people with dementia.
Midwest Orthopaedics is an ongoing sponsor of the event, which has raised funds for cancer research at Rush since 2012. I am very familiar with the swimming community — my daughter Morgan graduated from Michigan State University and swam there for four years, as well as four years at Downers Grove North High School. During that time, I was at almost all of Morgan’s swim events. What’s more, I am a nurse practitioner in orthopedic oncology, so there was a logical connection.
It made sense for me to be involved with the Swim Across America Chicago event, but I’ll admit that I barely swim in a pool, let alone in Lake Michigan. But, of course, I became Captain Patty.
Luckily for me, the swim is a noncompetitive race — no triathlon clawing or scratching — and the half-mile swim parallels the beach, which means the water is shallow and makes the race doable for all skill levels. For those more proficient swimmers, you can swim up to three miles. It is way easier than any chemotherapy treatment, any radiation treatment, or any surgical procedure and rehabilitation that my cancer patients have gone through. We even have former cancer patients on the team. Continue reading →
The most gratifying aspect of Rush’s Facebook page is the positive feedback we get from patients and their families. Since it’s National Nurses Week, we’re sharing a few comments they posted recently about the nursing staff at Rush.
Once again I’m in Rush sweating out the biopsy results. And once again I have to tell anyone listening that the nursing staff on 10 and 11 Kellogg are the best there is. … No matter how rotten I feel or rotten my attitude is, they manage to cheer me up, and for that I again say thanks so much. You ladies (well folks, there is a guy or two in this mix as well and they are just as good) are the poster children for angels of mercy.
I cannot begin to tell you how great the nurses and the ER room were. I almost hated to leave. The nurses were so kind and attentive. They were just great! They kept me updated and made sure that I was OK. … I would highly recommend the Rush ER to anyone.
I came in for a three-day stay to run another course of chemotherapy. I was amazed at how well I was treated. The nursing staff at Rush is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s very hard for cancer patients to keep up their spirits, but the nurses there do their very best to keep you in a better mood while providing superb medical care. Ladies and the occasional gentleman, thank you all.
A BIG thank you to all of the nurses on the transplant floor! All of you were truly amazing!
Thank you to all the nurses, especially to those who took care of me and my son during labor and after delivery.
All the nurses we had for my husband’s cancer treatment were wonderful. Thank you!
The nurses who took care of me after my spinal fusion surgery were amazing! God bless you all!
To the nurses and PCTs on ninth floor north you helped me through the scariest time in my life!
Mary Pat Serrano, RN, is a Rush pediatric intensive care nurse and one of 10 national finalists for Johnson & Johnson’s Amazing Nurses 2013. She was nominated by Rush colleague Jennifer Wolf, RN, who wrote the following introduction:
Mary Pat Serrano
Mary Pat Serrano is not only an excellent Pediatric ICU nurse, she is also a truly genuine person who has the ability to build rapport with her patients and families like no other nurse I have ever worked with in my 12 years as a nurse in the PICU.
Mary Pat has an infectiously positive attitude that always sets the tone for the rest of the staff. And, whether she’s helping her peers or lending her patients and their families a shoulder to cry on, Mary Pat is always there — no questions asked.
During November 2012, an oncology patient was distraught about starting chemotherapy and losing her hair. To cheer her up, Mary Pat told the patient that she would shave her own head so that they could be bald together. The patient didn’t believe her. That is, not until Mary Pat arranged for a staff member to come to the patient’s room with hair trimmers.
Three people at Rush with military backgrounds – a nurse, a student and an executive – share stories about their experiences and how their background affects who they are now.
Photos by Jason Chiou
Sherry Hedge has dual careers as a nurse in Rush University Medical Center’s Emergency Department and as an active member of the U.S. Army.
For years she has tackled the challenges related to switching back and forth between civilian and military life.
In this audio clip, Hedge discusses what inspired her to join the military along with the differences between being a nurse at Rush and providing medical care to soldiers in war zones.
Robert Wilkins, who was a U.S. Army sergeant and served from 2003 to 2009, will soon graduate from the Rush College of Nursing.
In this audio clip, he talks about the struggles that veterans face after leaving the military, including returning to relationships and civilian career prospects.
Jaime Parent, associate chief information officer and vice president of Information Technology Operations at Rush, was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and served from 1983 to 2003.
Parent developed his knowledge of information systems while serving in the military. He brought his expertise to Rush, where he leads information technology advances and helps support Rush’s vision of being an institution of equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion.
Parent reflects on his experience in this audio clip.
Each year, Founders Day honors the people who first established Rush University Medical Center as Rush Medical College in 1837. Special awards are presented to employees — including Gia Crisanti — who have played a pivotal role in providing the best possible care for our patients.
Wayne M. Lerner Manager of the Year
Honoree: Gia Crisanti, RN, unit director, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit
Years with Rush: 30
What’s your No. 1 priority as a manager? “My job is to provide an environment for our staff to give the best care to our patients.”
As the unit director of the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU), Gia Crisanti often asks, “How can we do this in a way that is best for everyone involved?” It’s this devotion to not settling for the status quo that makes Crisanti a remarkable manager — one who is in touch with her staff and CICU patients.
It’s not just Crisanti’s approach to patient care that makes her such a great leader. She treats her staff as equals, creating a more cohesive work environment. Employees describe her as incredibly thoughtful in everything she does. She’s able to get everyone on the CICU to bring their unique perspective in discussions on how to improve the unit. Crisanti brings out the best in people.
What is your identity? Identity is a multifaceted concept rooted in culture, religion, sexual orientation, profession, personal philosophy, social roles in society and many other forces driven by nature and environment. There is no right or wrong answer. How I define myself may change over time and may be different than how others perceive me.
I am a faculty member at Rush University College of Nursing. I teach public health, community-based mental health, epidemiology and biostatistics and conduct research to improve the quality of life for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. I am also a retired noncommissioned officer of the United States Navy, a hospital corpsman, and a 100 percent disabled Gulf War veteran. So what is my identity?