After working as a chemist at a manufacturing plant for six years, Graham Niswander, RN, wanted to explore a transition into health care. To get a better sense of what that would be like, he began volunteering in the Rush Copley Emergency Department in 2016. Today, he is a clinical coordinator and charge nurse in the same department he began his volunteer work in.
What brought you to Rush Copley?
Niswander: I initially graduated from Illinois State in 2010 with a degree in molecular biology and began working as a chemist within a manufacturing plant in the Aurora area. After some time there, I wanted to explore a transition into the medical setting. I began volunteering in the emergency department at Rush Copley in 2016 and then started as a patient care technician in January 2018. Around the same time, I started a master's entry nursing program through Elmhurst University. I graduated in spring 2019 and soon after accepting a nursing position at Rush Copley. Needless to say, I've held many job titles over the past five years! I took over as one of our full-time day shift charge nurses here in the emergency department in June 2021. Currently, I serve as the emergency department's partnership chair and hold a vice chair position in our Nursing Executive Congress.
Niswander: My mother was a nurse before she became a full-time mom for myself and my five siblings, so that played a big role in my desire to want pursue a career helping people. However, my biggest driver was probably related to my grandfather's battle with Alzheimer's disease when I was younger. After his passing, I knew that my path would lead me to a career related to the medical/pharmaceutical field. I found out early on that my initial career path would not offer me the job satisfaction I was looking for at the time. Unlike my previous career, being a nurse offered me the chance to really impact someone's life. I've always been drawn towards the sciences and nursing offered me the chance to marry that with patient care.
What keeps you at Rush?
Niswander: I initially came to Rush Copley because it was the most local hospital to where I was living at the time and it offered a smooth path for me to immerse myself in the hospital environment — especially in the emergency department. I think I knew from the start that the emergency department was going to be my nursing area of choice. After being here for some time and seeing the culture of teamwork and partnership that Rush offers, I fell in love with this institution. Graduating nursing school, I knew if I was offered a position at Rush I would take it. The visibility of our current administration is a huge driver for me to stay here. I love that if I work during the week, I can expect to see our CEO making his rounds throughout the hospital. The opportunities for vertical growth, and hearing stories like our current CEO and his advancement within the hospital, makes me to want to stay within this organization and see where it takes me professionally.
What makes you proud to be a Rush nurse?
Niswander: I am proud to be part of an organization that is focused on patient care and how nursing specifically can impact the organization's standing and reputation within the community. It was so rewarding to receive the recent Magnet designation here at Copley. I've always been proud of the teamwork we have here at Rush and receiving that recognition solidifies my choice to continue to be a nurse within this institution. From physicians, to nursing staff and ancillary departments, the communication and synergy which is continuously displayed make me love coming to work daily. The pandemic showed the Chicago area and the country how professional and organized the Rush system is during a time of crisis. Staff members bonded together in a time when not much was known for certain and things were constantly changing. Everyone within this organization shares the same values and goals when it comes to patient care, and for that I am truly honored to be a Rush nurse and a leader within this organization.
Do you have any advice for new nurses?
Niswander: The best advice I can give a new nurse is to throw yourself into the profession. If you have any opportunities to step out of your comfort zone, take it. The nursing field offers so many directions and pathways and you never know what will materialize from the route you take. At the same time, make sure that you take time for yourself and utilize the benefits that your organization offers — especially in today's health care environment.