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March Nurse of Excellence Magdalena Filipkowska, RN

Can you tell us about yourself?

My two siblings and I were raised in New York with my hardworking mother, often working three jobs to enable us kids to have a nice life. When I was seven, we relocated to New Jersey; it was a seamless transition since the lifestyle is mostly the same. I was the first in my family to go for nursing, and for that matter the first to graduate college, making my mother very proud.

I’ll be very frank to admit that upon enrolling to Trinity School of Nursing, I was not yet aware of the grave responsibilities that nurses hold. Neither did I know that on the hospital floor, nurses are called upon to wear the hat of doctor, PT, OT, Social Worker and what not.  Still, I did not regret my decision for a moment. On the contrary, I relished the plunge into the challenging adventure.

What are some ways you recharge your caregiver batteries or things you are looking forward to?

In my off time, I love to read or work out to disconnect after a turmoiled day at work. Traveling with my Fiancé to see different places, especially out of country makes my favorite! We recently returned from a beautiful trip to Dominican Republic. We are getting married in April and planning out honeymoon trip to Europe. It has been a great year with a lot to look forward to!

Were you ever called upon to use your nursing expertise outside the scope of your job?

Oh yes! Every time I board a plane I am like ‘I hope I’ll be just another passenger this time..’.  I have been present on more than three flights where they call for a nurse to help with complicated situations on board. In one of the times there was a diabetic patient who passed out. For the rest of the journey, I sat right beside the patient. Another time, there was a patient with heart failure who needed me to assist him with his oxygen tank. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a hundred-dollar travel credit which was kind of a nice tap on the back.

What do you find as the most rewarding aspect of the job?

When patients look forward to seeing you and take comfort in your presence, that connection is what truly drives me.  I recall this patient under my care who was diagnosed with cancer at a very late stage when there was very little hope to intervene effectively. He was on the floor for a week, but all we could do was to witness his fast decline. It was very touching to be in a role where I could support the man and his wife for the week. Though I could not offer a cure, I was able to give my shoulder for them to lean on. Especially for the wife, who was devastated to see her lifelong friend and partner crumble before her eyes.

Though, precisely because of the connection with the patients, I am challenged at leaving all I have seen behind after a day of work to focus on my own life. How can you unwind after a day of work when the people you care for are still suffering?

What is an area where you would like to bring awareness to patients or people in general?

Many patients I encounter say that they felt something for a while, but they did not go for testing before the symptoms were screaming. When illnesses are caught at a later stage, they have room to spread. It is crucial for woman to take their routine mammograms and for men, their colonoscopies or other preventive screening.

Any message you would like to impart to more White Glove nurses?

As nurses, we should be mindful to always go the extra mile. For us, it is another day of work, but for our patients, this is their life, and every gesture of kindness is a big deal that makes them feel better. They remember everything taking place in those hard moments.

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