Golden Lamp Award: Kacie Svesko ’15

For as long as Kacie Svesko can remember, she has wanted to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. One of her earliest memories of elementary school was a rainy day in Oregon. The worms were out and stranded on the sidewalk. “I couldn’t stand the thought of all those poor little guys frying in the afternoon sun, so one-by-one I picked up each worm individually and returned them to their soil home,” she said. “I just kind of became the protector of things that couldn’t protect themselves and somehow that has led me to nursing.”

Svesko loves challenges, which is another reason she is drawn to nursing. Svesko lives for adventure and wants a fast-paced job that is mentally demanding and requires her to think on her feet. “Having the opportunity to be part of such a dynamically growing field is motivating,” she said, adding, “Nursing truly is the best combination of compassion and adventure. You can go anywhere and do just about anything with a nursing degree.”

Svesko, this year’s Golden Lamp Award recipient, is completing a nursing degree from Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Nursing program at Western Oregon University. Prior to joining the nursing program she earned a bachelor’s in psychology and had been working at an inpatient treatment facility for pediatric mental health. However, once Svesko started her nursing studies, she knew she’d found her true calling. “Once I started this ride I knew I was hooked and now there is no amount of riches or bribes that would persuade me otherwise,” she said.

The “clinicals” stage of the program was life changing for Svesko. She completed her integrative practicum at the Salem Hospital Intensive Care Unit. Not only did this experience provide technical training she needed for her career, it helped her grow in more ways than she thought possible. “On the personal side, holding someone’s hand and watching as they take their last breath really makes you stop wasting your own.”

Her instructors and peers encouraged her along the way, but the patients are really why she’s in the field. “I cannot describe how powerful it is to hear the tiny whisper of a small child say to his mother, ‘my nurse knows magic, she made my pain disappear.’” Svesko is inspired to save infant children knowing their futures are full of promise. She said the job is sometimes emotionally difficult. “It is heartbreaking to look into the eyes of someone and know they are about to lose their best friend, and in that moment you are all that they have.”

After graduation she hopes to begin a registered nurse program specializing in intensive care. “My heart is in pediatric intensive care and ultimately I would like to work in a pediatric intensive care unit,” she said. “However there are only two in Oregon so as they taught me in kindergarten, I may have to ‘wait my turn.’” She’s also looking forward to spending more time with her family and friends. “I learn something new every day from my patients. The gifts they give me about life are inspiring. They motivate me to seek passion, live openly and take each day as it is.”

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