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The ENA Member Spotlight is a monthly showcase of select members and their stories.

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March Member Spotlight: Thelma Kuska BSN, RN, CEN, CPST-I, FAEN

Thelma Kuska

Why did you want to become a nurse?
I had very good role models. My mother was a nurse and I grew up reading her old nursing books, so one would think nursing would be a logical choice for me. My mother’s youngest sister was also a nurse. She followed her dream of using nursing to help people around the world. Later, she became dean of the college of nursing at the university where my uncle was the president.

However, when I got to college, I told my dad I want to go enroll in fine arts. My dad told me, “ I am paying for tuition, so you are going to enroll in nursing.” And so I did, being the obedient child that I am. Once I was accepted to St. Luke’s School of Nursing, I knew that there is no question, I have to pass. No flunking. My dad was superintendent of schools and I had to live up to expectations.

There are no regrets in my choice of nursing as a career. It is one of the best things that I have ever done. I guess “father knows best,” right?

Once I became a nurse, I had to put my whole life into it. I am proud to be a nurse. I am proud to say I am an emergency nurse.

What has made ENA special for you?
Joining ENA is a first step. Becoming involved in ENA, whether in the state council or nationally is the next step. Once I started attending the annual conference, I realized that there is a whole new world out there. ENA is full of talented, knowledgeable emergency nurses. I have met so many people and made many friends throughout the years. Going to the annual meeting each year is like a family reunion to me. ENA has afforded me the chance to get more from and give more to, emergency nursing. ENA helped me grow professionally and personally. For this, ENA has opened many doors for me. I never thought I could get up and speak publicly, but through programs started by two emergency nurses, I have been speaking to high school students about teen driver safety for the past 25 years. I never thought of writing for JEN, but I did. Through encouragement from Sue Sheehy, I have published 10 articles. Through ENA, I have learned how to be active on advocacy and be part of the grassroots coalition in my state. I was invited to witness the signing of the Illinois Graduated Licensing Law by Governor Jim Edgar.

What advice would you give to yourself from when you started your nursing career until now?
Find your niche, find a specialty that appeals to you and be good at it. Don’t be afraid to spread your wings and try new things.

To the older me, I say to always remember how you felt when you were a new nurse, afraid to try your wings, afraid you will make mistakes. Keep this in the back of your mind when nursing students are doing clinicals in your department or mentoring or precepting new nurses to the department.

Being grounded will make you a good preceptor. Be a good teacher. Be a great mentor. Always pay forward. It is rewarding.

Emergency nursing is not all about the thrill of taking care of traumas. There are good days and there are not so good days. There are times we celebrate the “saves” and there are times when we have to lean on each other to get us through the day and beyond.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I love spending time with family, especially my grandchildren.
I love traveling to experience the world, but I am always glad to come back home though.
I have been to 55 countries and all the continents except for Antarctica.

I love teaching child passenger safety, at least 12 three-day classes a year. I help out with car seat checks.
I still talk to high school students about traffic safety during their driver’s ED classes
I volunteer during the Bank of America Chicago running events including the Chicago Marathon in October and the Shamrock Shuffle in March.

I belong to a women’s golf league and golf on Tuesdays from May to September
I love to do needle crafts such as needlepoint and cross stitch - my house is full of finished projects.
I love to read – last year I finished 75 books. Since January, I have read 20 books.

I love building Legos I am working on the grand piano and the Fender guitar right now.

Thank you, Thelma for your hard work and dedication to emergency nursing!

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