By Katie Zapfel | Photo By Peter Jakubowski
TV’s Mister Rogers once said, “Always look for the helpers.” If you are looking for one of those helpers, look no further than Sue Grochowski.
This College of Nursing graduate began her journey an ocean away. And as fate would have it, it was an immense sea that would carry her to UWM.
Grochowski was born and raised in Honduras, and moved to New Orleans when she was 15. She completed her undergraduate degree in biology at the University of New Orleans and was working as a research technician.
And then Hurricane Katrina struck.
“It happened so suddenly,” Grochowski says. “I was so involved with my work that I didn’t leave until the night before Katrina hit. I only packed for three days, and I was away for almost three months.”
Katrina may have shattered a city, but it couldn’t rattle Grochowski.
She returned home to help family and friends as they transitioned back into the city. Soon afterward, she moved to Milwaukee with a colleague and began working as a researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin. But she felt there was still more she wanted to accomplish.
“I was missing a piece in my career,” says Grochowski. “I felt nursing was the right fit for me because I would be able to interact with patients and help out in the community.”
She chose to pursue her nursing degree at UWM because of its focus on community health.
During her studies, she has had many memorable experiences. She traveled to Australia with the International Scholar Laureate Program nursing delegation, where she learned about the country’s health care system. And during her first clinical semester, her mentor, instructor Marijo Rommelfaenger, introduced her to the National Kidney Foundation’s KEEP (Kidney Early Evaluation Program) screenings.
“It has made such an impact on my life,” reflects Grochowski. “I became so passionate about what they were doing for at-risk populations. It made me realize that this is what I really want to do.”
Grochowski remains an active volunteer with the Kidney Foundation, performing health screenings for diabetes and serving as a bilingual Spanish interpreter.
“I really enjoy volunteering,” she says. “It brings me back to focus on why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
Now Grochowski works as a patient care assistant at Froedtert Hospital, and is doing clinicals in the labor and delivery unit at St. Joseph Hospital.
After graduation she plans to use the knowledge she’s gained through her studies and professional experiences to take her National Council Licensure Examination. She has already been accepted to the Doctorate of Nursing Practice program at UWM. Her goal is to become a Nurse Practitioner, focusing on families and educating vulnerable populations about the importance of preventive care.
“I want to have an impact educating people on primary prevention,” says Grochowski. “Education is the key to helping people make good health decisions, and identifying chronic diseases earlier so that the patient isn’t suffering for years.”
Though the years have led Grochowski in unexpected directions, one thing remains certain. Helping others will always be her path to success.