When she was in high school, Michelle Kraska wanted to be a pharmacist. “I knew I wanted to help people, but nursing was not initially on my mind. I have an uncle who is a pharmacist and I really looked up to him and thought I would follow in his footsteps.”
She started her training at the State University of New York at Buffalo and had a job as a pharmacy technician but realized quickly that was not the job for her. “I ended up graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences and did all my undergrad lab research work in cancer therapy. I went back to nursing school because I wanted to do direct patient care instead of being in a lab.”
More than a decade later, she’s now nurse Michelle Kraska, BS, AAS, RN, at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, working in the Clinical Research Center, a dedicated area that cares for patients on clinical trials. Nurses on this unit are specially trained to address side effects of investigational medications as well as implement study data requirements. “It fits perfectly that I am using both my degrees in this position. I really love it!”
Despite her earlier intention to be a pharmacist, Kraska says she always had an interest in cancer care. “Like so many, I’ve had family and friends that have been diagnosed with cancer. For that reason, it became a personal and professional choice to be a nurse at Roswell Park. It has been the best choice. I love being a research nurse because I feel like I make a difference in the care of my patients. I hope to help them through their journey to meet milestones they might not have reached if not for clinical trials.”
According to her colleagues, her bedside nursing abilities are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
“Michelle had a patient arrive to her floor who came from an outpatient clinic with pain that continued to escalate. Two other departments were working on the pain control issues but the communication was getting extremely confusing on how to control this pain,” says Cynthia Samborski, MSN, MHA, RN, CCRC, a Clinical Research Educator at Roswell Park. “Michelle was not leaving or allowing the patient to leave without adequate pain control (she actually stated this). She carefully and compassionately managed this patient and other patients while addressing this problem.”
That’s why Samborski nominated Kraska to be our Nurse of the Month for June. “Her compassion, integrity and respect for the patient was outstanding. To Michelle, this was nothing special, but what I saw was a nurse fighting for her patient like they were her own family member and it was so inspiring.”
Adds Kathleen Arena, BSN, RN, the Clinical Research Center Administrator, “Michelle has given patients her own food while they waited lengthy periods to get admitted. She has driven them home when stranded here during a storm. Her care for our patients goes beyond standard care given at the bedside. She is a shining example of Roswell Park and research nursing!”
Kraska, who says she loves spending time with her family outdoors now that the weather has improved, enjoys working in cancer research and being part of their care team. “I really like working with our wonderful patients that agree to participate in clinical trials. It is interesting to see what therapies are being developed to help fight cancer. I also work with an incredible team of nurses that make it easier to do what we do.”
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