Throughout life, instances happen that can mold a person into what he or she wants to do for their career. It happened to Sara Kurt.
Kurt, a senior at Mount Mercy University who is graduating in May, enrolled as a nursing major because of inspiration from her mother, a nurse at UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital-Dubuque. However, she didn’t expect to be more convinced during college that nursing was the career for her.
Her grandfather’s experience with cancer helped draw her interest deeper, to working with cancer patients in oncology. Six years ago that grandfather, Jimmy Daly, was diagnosed with skin cancer. The year after, he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which metastasized to his liver, and died in 2009.
“Grandpa always drank Diet Dr Pepper; at the end we used the toothette sponges with Diet Dr Pepper instead of water sometimes,” Kurt, 22 and a Dyersville Beckman High School graduate, said. “Being around the cancer process with Grandpa gave me the goal to provide comfort to those who struggle with their battles, as well as a constant reminder that helping is my passion.”
Kurt began working as a patient care tech at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids in her sophomore year of college. That following summer, in 2009, she had the definitive “a-ha” moment that sealed her desire to work in oncology. It came within the span of one week, at Camp Make-A-Dream in Missoula, Mont.
Through a recommendation from her brother, who works there in the summer, Kurt volunteered as a counselor at this camp, founded for teenagers living with cancer. The camp is designed to make the teens feel at home, where others don’t focus solely on their cancer. “They could be themselves. That’s where they were comfortable,” Kurt said.
Living with 26 campers in a cabin, Kurt had the time of her life. She remembers being sick with a cold and forcing herself to refrain from participating, in fear of giving the cold to any of the campers.
The following August, at the beginning of her junior year, Kurt resumed working as a patient care tech at Mercy Medical Center. Her nurse manager pushed her over Christmas break of her junior year to fill out an internship application for the neurosurgery and oncology floor.
She got the internship and spent last summer on Mercy’s eighth floor. Yet another surprise came her way during the winter when she was offered a permanent position as a registered nurse on that same floor that ignited her passion four years before.
“I hope to go farther and farther in oncology,” Kurt said. “I signed a two-year contract with Mercy to work on that floor so that is where I will be for a little while.”
Taylor Grangaard is a junior at Mount Mercy University from Waukon. She wrote this story as part of an IowaWatch/college student media project. IowaWatch.org is part of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, a non-profit, online news Website dedicated to collaborating with Iowa news organizations to produce explanatory and investigative work.