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Celebrating 50 Years of Nursing

Posted: May 2, 2022

A Short Memoir by Joan Konzak, WEA Trust Senior Care Manager Specialist

At the age of 5, I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. After graduating from high school, I enrolled in Columbia Hospital School of Nursing’s 3-year diploma program and graduated in 1972. I received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from Cardinal Stritch University in 1989 and my Master’s Degree in Health Management from Cardinal Stritch University in 1999. In 2001, I achieved my Care Manager Certification and proudly maintain that certification to this day.

I started my nursing career at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin working in the Intermediate ICU. The most challenging cases for me while there was taking care of children who had been physically abused. I could not comprehend why someone would hurt a child.

I later worked in a smaller pediatric unit in a rural hospital and eventually transitioned to home care. While working for the VNA of Wisconsin I was asked by the President of the VNA to work with a team of others to develop the agency’s hospice program. I was the Director of Patient Care for 12 years. At that time, I was recruited by IRG, an independent care management company providing care management for complex cases to 1,500 insurance companies across the nation. Through that relationship I was offered a position with WEA Trust in 2012. I have held a number of roles here, with my current role being a Senior Care Manager Specialist.

Nursing is so much more than just learning about disease and the treatment for it—no two situations are alike. What I have loved most in my nursing career is the opportunity to empower patients and their families with knowledge. When I see that a patient understands their disease process and the plan of care, it is an awesome feeling. We have the ability to bring understanding and peace during what can be a confusing or challenging time. We make sure members’ concerns are being addressed and cultural and ethnic beliefs are being respected. Nurses are the backbone of health care; there are so many opportunities for nurses to improve health outcomes.

Not all days are easy—doctors can be demanding, patients and their families can be unreasonable and not everyone recovers from their illness. This can be stressful. However, after 50 years of helping patients and their families navigate their health care journeys, I believe that at the end of each day, no matter how challenging the day has been, I have made a difference in someone’s life.

Thank you, Joan, for your dedicated years of service to your community, WEA Trust and our members!

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