In middle school, Courtney Kiolbassa saw nurses take wonderful care of her mother after a near-fatal crash.
She also saw her grandfather get a left ventricular assist device in 2005, when it still was a rare procedure that allowed him to share 11 more years with his family.
Those pivotal experiences prompted Kiolbassa, 28, to study to become a nurse specializing in cardiology just more than six years ago. Her dedication and hard work have earned her the 2021 Nurse of the Year award for Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital near Lake Barrington.
“It’s an amazing profession,” said Kiolbassa, a Crystal Lake resident. “I feel in love with it because I not only get to help patients on a day-to-day basis, but I am learning every day. I work for a really good organization and I feel supported.”
Her mother and grandfather were treated at now-Advocate Aurora Health hospitals, so she is especially glad to work there, she said.
The organization employs more than 22,000 nurses and received more than 700 nominations for the 2021 awards. A total 30 nurses were selected, one each for the 26 acute care facilities plus four nursing areas: continuing health, system services, integrated care management and medical group.
Besides caring for patients, Kiolbassa has made a concrete difference in several ways in her 4½ years at Good Shepherd.
Together with fellow cardiology nurse Kristen Livermore – coincidentally 2020 Nurse of the Year – she developed a cardiac certification study program for nurses. “We started studying for it and Kristen came up with study guides, and we decided to make it a big project.”
Kiolbassa also was instrumental in developing and rolling out nurse training for a new hospital electronic platform implemented in 2019.
She serves on a variety of hospital and Advocate committees. That includes Good Shepherd’s Magnet committee, whose goal is to keep Magnet hospital designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which recognizes excellence in nursing.
Advocate Good Shepherd Chief Nursing Officer Mary Roesch said she was not surprised Kiolbassa was selected for the award.
“Courtney exemplifies what it means to be a Magnet nurse, providing excellent, compassionate care to her patients. Courtney identifies opportunities to improve nursing practice and implements change through the nursing shared governance process,” Roesch said. “Courtney’s leadership skills are evident in her approach to mentoring new nurses and I am excited to watch her career grow.”
Kiolbassa typically works four-to-five 12-hour shifts per week, picking up one or two extra shifts per week. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, but it’s all about working together as a team, she said.
“Taking care of my patients and being able to educate my patients when they are really vulnerable, it’s different from a lot of other careers,” she said. “Trying to brighten people’s day, every day, is a really cool part of your job. You have that instant gratification when you leave work that you made an impact in someone’s life so dramatically.”