How the Nature of Caring Has Impacted, ADN Grad, Katja Lektorich
Katja Lektorich grew up in the wilderness of northern California on five acres bordering national forest, off the power grid near the town of Verdi. It was true wilderness; there were wild animals everywhere. She says she spent more time around animals than people and admits animals were her first love. A mountain lion slept on the little wooden shed that was built over their well. Deer walked around the yard as comfortably as if they were pets. For entertainment, she loved reading books, as there was no television until about the age of 8. Her love of nature and animals developed into a passion for science and the natural environment. She eagerly sought more education as she grew older. Perhaps a unique upbringing you might say, but one that definitely added to her eventual success many years later, graduating at the top of her class in the Carrington College ADN program and receiving the Dean’s Award. This is her story.
How did you get interested in nursing?
My neighbor, who was a second mom to me, was a labor and delivery nurse for 38 years. I wondered if I should have been that. I started college at the University of Nevada, Reno, and got my first degree in conservation and biology. I also spent time managing a wildlife sanctuary, I loved animals so much. But later, after I got a master’s in literature and environment, I thought I’d try teaching and taught beginning composition, core humanities, and cultural geography. I loved what I was teaching but I hated grading papers!
At the time a close friend and mentor had been struggling with Pancreatic cancer. It had an impact on me. I began to be interested in oncology. I think I was drawn to it because the care needed is not just task-driven; it’s a multi-factorial kind of care. You really have to get to know your patients to try to help them with psycho-social demands. When people are really sick with cancer it can be terrifying; and as life-altering, as the treatments are, I found I could care for them very well, even if they weren’t always nice people.
How did you decide to study at Carrington College?
There are a lot of choices where I live now (in Reno), so I did a lot of research. I compared nursing license pass rates, I researched the background of the professors and looked into admission requirements, ie., what coursework I had already done that they would accept. And I found Carrington’s Associate Degree in Nursing to be a really solid program with a wonderful group of professors, who tailored complex ideas to actual nursing situations.
What did you like about Carrington and what did you find most challenging?
The schedule was challenging, but I also found it to be incredibly supportive. There are a lot of resources there, and they really dial you into the testing preparation for the licensing exam.
Do you feel the ADN program at Carrington prepared you for your current role?
I do. I felt as confident as you can be as a new nurse. I had the base skills that I needed and I got hired into a wonderful team of seasoned nurses. I was very lucky to get hired into my field of interest, oncology. Because I was an older graduate, I think it helped; because I came with more diverse experience and maturity. My direct manager said they knew they needed the right fit, and she could tell I was meant for it! I worked on the floor with acute care. My manager allowed me to cross-train in every branch of oncology, including radiation and the infusion room.
Where do you work now, and what is your current title?
I work at the Northern Nevada Sierra Medical Center. They headhunted me to be the Oncology Program Coordinator, which handles oversight and development of oncological services.
Is there anyone at Carrington you would like to mention in gratitude for their support and encouragement?
All the professors were wonderful but there are a few I can remember in particular: Cory Meyer (anatomy and physiology), Lori Porter (Nursing), and Peg Farrar (Nursing).
Do you have any advice for a person thinking of enrolling in this program?
If you’re thinking about nursing school, first try and get a few hours of a clinical class under your belt, to experience it and make sure the medical environment is the right setting for you to be in. Get on as a unit clerk or do a CNA class. If you feel really good with some practical clinical hours under your belt, then making the investment in a degree from Carrington is very wise – you get a great education and they will help you prepare for the NCLEX-RN exam. Also, nurses from Carrington have a good reputation. If you can persevere in a fast-paced program like theirs, you’re going to do well and be where you want to be.
Do you miss caring for animals rather than people now?
I’m still caring for animals! I’ve got two giant dogs – a Great Dane and a Pit Bull/St. Bernard mix, who don’t need a lot of exercise while I’m at work!