LIBERTYVILLE – Amid a nationwide nursing shortage, a Round Lake native looks to inspire future nurses as one of the 40 under 40 Emerging Nurse Leaders in Illinois.
Rocio Sanchez recently earned the recognition from the Illinois Nurses Foundation, which will celebrate all 40 nurses – representing public schools, county health departments, university medical centers, children’s hospitals and more throughout Illinois – with an event in September.
The honor is the latest for Sanchez, who was named Advocate Condell Center’s 2021 Nurse of the Year. She also was recently recognized with the National Association of Hispanic Nurses Forty under 40 award.
As a first-generation immigrant and a first-generation college student who began working toward her nursing degree while still in high school, Sanchez already has inspired with her “can-do attitude and compassionate care,” said those who have worked with her at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.
“Like other health care providers across the country, we are always looking to add more nurses to our team amid a nationwide shortage and inspiring leaders like Rocio help us attract and retain talented caregivers to serve our community,” said Rachel Loberg, chief nursing officer for Advocate Condell Medical Center.
“She’s a testament to how far a career in nursing can take you and we’re proud to support her career goals as she continues to grow.”
Sanchez aims to pursue a doctoral degree in nursing leadership. She chairs Advocate Condell’s housewide Shared Governance Council and the Professional Development Committee and also serves as treasurer-elect of the Hispanic Nurses Association.
For her, nursing is more than a job. It’s more like a mission.
“More than anything, I think with the latest recognition I feel very excited about what’s to come,” she said. “I’m so focused on the next goal or project that sometimes I don’t take a second to really appreciate the success or the wins. This makes me stop and appreciate where I am and what I’ve achieved so far.”
Sanchez began working as a clinical staff nurse at Advocate Condell shortly after earning her nursing degree from Chamberlain College of Nursing in 2016.
Just before the pandemic, she traveled to El Salvador on a mission trip, bringing medical supplies and care to an underserved area.
During the pandemic she volunteered and trained to work in the emergency department and intensive care unit on Advocate Condell’s critical care float team.
Times will never return to what they were before COVID-19, she said, but it’s important to find a state of well-being.
“For some, it was a very traumatic experience,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been through a lot of challenges in life and I just looked at it as another obstacle to overcome. We still don’t know what’s to come. We’ve had surges, and looking at it going into the upcoming winter, we don’t know what’s to come. But I know vaccinations have been impactful.
“I look at it as a period of time that has allowed me to come out more resilient and stronger and grateful.”
Her recognition as one of 40 under 40 Emerging Nurses Leaders celebrates her as a young nurse leader “impacting health care and the nursing profession today and who undoubtedly shapes the future of the profession,” according to the Illinois Nurses Foundation.
The award has given Sanchez a renewed sense of inspiration to encourage others to pursue a passion for the field of nursing. It’s a career with many possible avenues, she said.
“There are so many opportunities, so many different ways you can take the profession,” she said. “I think there’s this stigma or idea you kind of think of nursing and immediately think of bedside nursing, but nursing is so much more than that.”
What it comes down to is simply caring for people, said the mother of three, and the sense of fulfillment that brings.
She looks to give back any way she can, she said, especially as it relates to her Hispanic culture.
“I think one thing I’d like to highlight is it’s certainly not impossible and I like to lead by example,” she said. “I hope whomever I come across I can instill some sense of motivation and excitement. … It certainly is not impossible as a woman, as a single woman, as a minority, as a mom of three to pursue your passion and your goals and know you can do it.”