“I had no desire to work anywhere else”: Bystrak named Nurse of the Month for April

Four masked medical professionals stand together, with the second man, standing second from right, holding a certificate indicating he's been selected as Nurse of the Month for April.

Going into the family business doesn’t mean following the exact path forged by others.

Jake Bystrak, AAS, RN, became interested in nursing after working as a nurse's aide for a few years. His mother and sister are both nurses and he felt it was a great path to follow.  "I was a nurse’s aide for a couple of years and decided it would be best to continue my education. I really enjoyed working in healthcare as a whole, even on lower levels, and I wanted to climb the ranks.” He always wanted to work in a specialty hospital and had heard wonderful things about working at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center over the years. 

After starting his career in a rehabilitation facility, he joined the nursing team here in early 2021. “I had no desire to work anywhere else but Roswell Park,” he says.

The transition from working as a nurse in a rehab and subacute care facility to working in a cancer hospital wasn’t all that difficult. “We got our fair share of comfort care every once in a while. I enjoyed comfort care patients and taking care of them and their families. I was drawn to Roswell Park because I was seeing there was more than just comfort measures that go into cancer care treatment. You can watch the whole process happen.”

He likes to tell people about the welcoming and friendly environment at Roswell Park, the sunny atmosphere that extends beyond the tall windows of the main hospital lobby. “I was telling my fiancé when I came in for all my pre-employment health screenings, when you walk in here, you don’t walk past a single person without them acknowledging you or saying hello. Everyone is so pleasant.”

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A mutual admiration between patient and nurse

Bystrak is a nurse on 8 West, a floor that serves thoracic patients as well as patients recovering from surgery. “It’s a critical care floor, so anyone coming out of surgery who isn’t quite stable yet, they still have monitors on them and are still waking up. A lot of times they don’t remember you until the next day. We see a little bit of everything here,” he says. “I enjoy the variety of things I see working here. I’m seeing people who have different types of cancer in any part of their body.”

Whatever their need, patients are glad to see Bystrak at their bedside, eager to help and ready to give them the best care. “Every patient LOVES Jake. None of us can compete,” says Samantha West, RN, MHA, OCN, Nurse Manager for 8 West. “As recently as last night…I overheard Jacob going into a patient’s room and within a few minutes, he had assessed the patient while at the same time creating a personal connection and in no time they were chatting it up about sports and sharing stories about traveling out west. The conversation developed into an easy exchange like the two had known each other for years within a few short minutes, and this was done all while staying focused on the patient’s physical needs.”

It's this dedication to patients and easy nature when caring for them that led West to nominate Bystrak as Roswell Park’s Nurse of the Month for April.  “Over the past two months I have conducted one-on-one meetings with all the RNs and when asked if they would like to recognize a coworker for great work, all of the night shift and three of the day shift employees identified Jacob as being amazing as an RN,” West says. “I have received three patient correspondences in the past year which identified a particular love for having Jacob as their RN during their stay on 8W.”

Bystrak, who was at the end of a long shift when he received his award, says his team deserves credit for their care as well. “There’s such great teamwork. Everyone is there for each other. There isn’t a single weak link in the chain. Even if someone’s having a bad day, everyone else will pick up the pace to make sure that person’s day stays supportive.

“There has not been a single negative attitude,” he adds. “Everyone’s qualified, so passionate, so positive, and that’s what gets us to the point where we can complete the common goal, to give the patients as much care and treatment success as possible. I thanked my coworkers when I got the award because I couldn’t have done it without them.”