Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories highlighting Concordia's May 2019 graduates.
Nicholas Lustek is exactly where he wants to be. The adult accelerated student recently earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree as a member of Concordia University Wisconsin’s bachelor’s degree in nursing second degree accelerated program. He also landed his dream job as a nurse in the transplant intensive care unit at Froedtert Memorial Hospital, and is marrying his high school sweetheart in a couple weeks. This month of monumental celebrations represents a lifetime of careful planning and small steps forward for this Germantown, Wisconsin native.
Lustek was just 16-years-old when he started working at St. Joseph’s Hospital in West Bend, an affiliation of Froedtert and the Medical College. He was an in-room dining assistant and discovered how much he enjoyed talking with patients while he delivered their meals. He also recognized the special bonds that the nurses formed with the patients. He was impressed with how much time they invested in each one and how they demonstrated such compassion by listening, encouraging, and supporting them throughout their stay.
“I had the opportunity to be in patients’ rooms while caregivers, representing all fields, were interacting with them and their families,” explains Lustek. “That experience opened my eyes to the field of nursing and helped me see my potential in the field.”
The nurses’ approach to health care stuck with Lustek as he began to pursue his own career path into health care. He studied biology at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and kept his job with Froedtert throughout his undergraduate career. Upon graduation, Lustek looked to Concordia to earn a degree in health care and to be close to his hometown. He took steps to enroll in the Physician Assistant program.
Throughout his interview process, however, Lustek began to reassess his PA plans and started to seriously consider nursing.
“The aspect of health care I loved most was caring for the patients,” says Lustek. “I realized that nursing would allow me to hop right into clinicals and work with patients right away.” He also had an opportunity to meet with the nursing staff and connected with them and their approach immediately. “They truly care for each one of us as people and that was evident right away.”
Concordia’s Accelerated Nursing program is available to students who already have a bachelor’s degree. It is a 14-month program that is cohort-based and blends online and in-person learning. Students are immersed in the content, one course at a time, with clinical courses taken concurrently with the corresponding theory course. Web-based resources are used side-by-side with clinicals, labs, and simulation experiences to provide a complete and Christian-based foundation.
Lustek notes that he especially appreciated the Christian Care and Heritage of Faith courses that were required in the program and found them to be extremely helpful in his practice as a health coach, a promotion he received at Froedtert towards the end of his first undergraduate degree.
As Lustek transitions into his role as a transplant nurse he credits Concordia’s Christian approach to not only help him care for his patients, but also found that the skills and fortitude he learned in those courses help him to deal with his own emotions through difficult patient situations.
“This is a very gratifying but emotional position,” says Lustek. “Patients might be desperately waiting for organs that never come. It can be excruciating for them and their families. My job as a nurse is to help them and prepare them for next steps.”
Lustek, who is entering his eighth year as an employee of Froedtert, is working part time right now, but will go full-time in the Transplant Intensive Care Unit after he takes his licensure exam in late May.
“I love Froedtert,” he proclaims. “They’ve invested in me and molded me into the person I am today.”
Lustek and his fiancée, Samantha, will marry in June and plan to stay in the area so he can remain at Froedtert. As he explains, “For now, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
— Lisa Liljegren is assistant vice president of strategic communications within the Office of Strategy and University Affairs.
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