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A Dream Come True: A Q&A with Jennifer Krawiec, an Ortho-Certified Nurse

By: Lauren McRae

There’s nothing better than accomplishing your dream; and for Jennifer Krawiec, the only thing she’s ever wanted to become was an orthopedic-certified RN. 

Krawiec has been at NorthShore for almost six years and getting ortho-certified was the proudest moment in her career. “I can remember being in nursing school and our professor asking us what kind of nurse we wanted to be, and I was the only one in my class to say, ortho!” she said. “I couldn’t wait to be a nurse for at least two years so I could get my orthopaedic certification. That was my goal ever since nursing school.” And, that’s exactly what Krawiec is doing now.

Here, Krawiec outlines what it means to be ortho-certified and why she chose the field:

Q: What made you want to become an RN?
A: My mom is an LPN so nursing has always been a topic in my house. I also took a class in high school, Healthcare Careers, where we were able to shadow different healthcare professionals at a hospital. That’s when I really fell in love with orthopedic nursing. (Just a fun fact, my triplet sisters are also RNs as well!)

Q: Why did you choose to be in the orthopaedic field?
A: I really love how rewarding it is. You get patients talking about how difficult everyday activities were prior to surgery, even just walking around. Then, the patients leave almost independently and are walking around. I love it when patients leave with a smile and are looking forward to getting back to their everyday activities.

Q: Explain to me your career process here at NorthShore. How did you start and end up where you are now?
I started working as a resource patient care tech (PCT) in May of 2013 as part of a nursing student PCT resource team, in the orthopaedic unit. Less than two months later, I started working exclusively in the orthopedic unit (2W). After graduation and passing my NCLEX, I was offered a position working the night shift as a staff nurse, and I have rotated between the night shift and day shift for the past few years. Last year, I was the designated charge nurse on the night shift. I also took my orthopedic nurse certification exam in 2018.

Q: What's the most rewarding part about being an ortho-certified RN?
A: The self-gratification! Also, I am used as a resource in the unit, in addition to the other ortho-certified nurses. I feel pretty knowledgeable about the topic and I am comfortable and confident with the answers I give.

Q: What’s the most challenging part about being an ortho-certified RN?
The number of hours to renew (75 CEUs!! 50 in orthopedics specifically) and the stressful part about taking a test after being out of school.

Q: How do you assist with planning unit team activities?
I am the self-designated "party planner" of the unit and I plan team-building activities. In the past, we have organized cook-offs. Our most memorable one was a March Madness meatball cook-off a few years ago. The winner received a trophy and we had at least 10 contestants who entered. This year I did a free March Madness bracket and gave away Starbucks coffee 1 lb bags as prizes.

Last year, I organized a Cubs game for Healthcare appreciation night. I am also doing it again this year. I have also helped organize a softball team for our unit that includes ortho PAs, physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, physical therapy aides, nurses, and PCTs. We usually play during the fall on Wednesday nights in the Skokie league, so watch out for The Shore!

Overall, I try to get everyone excited about working in our unit and feeling like we are a family...because we are! We spend the majority of our lives at work and I feel like it should be a welcoming place.

Q: Can you share a story that made a difference in your career?
The first story I can give you is when I was in high school and I was in my healthcare career class shadowing PT & Speech therapy for a patient with a stroke. It was my birthday, and the therapists included me in that patient's plan for the day. The patient was told to walk over to me and sit down in a chair not too far from me. Once she was sitting next to me, the speech therapist told her it was my birthday and asked her if she wanted to try and sing Happy Birthday to me. She did, and I started bawling. I loved how they included me in the care and made the experience for the patient and me more personal.

I have so many stories from working in this unit, but what I really will emphasize is when a patient I have been caring for goes out of their way to acknowledge and thank me for my care, sometimes even ask for a hug prior to discharge…that really tugs at my heartstrings knowing I made that much of an impact on their stay, and I was more than just a nurse.

Q: What advice would you give to others who want to become ortho-certified?
A: Do it. Certification gives you the satisfaction of advancing your career and making you the most knowledgeable about the population you are caring about. It is great having expertise in orthopadeics and I love answering questions about it.