Healthy Tips

Get to Know the Northwestern Medicine Nurses

6 Nurses Who Make an Impact Every Day

Nurses do even more than you may realize. They are smart, attentive, and resilient patient advocates who work wonders behind-the-scenes. The nurses at Northwestern Medicine span many specialties, locations, ages and backgrounds, and each one shares an affection and investment in their patients.

Learn a little more about just a few of the influential, intelligent and caring nurses making an impact every day at Northwestern Medicine.

Jessica Kalas, RN, OCN

“Not a day goes by where I am not proud to be a nurse,” says Jessica, a triage RN in the infusion center at Northwestern Medicine Warrenville Cancer Center. “When patients return after completing their chemotherapy, months or years later, with stories of success and appreciation, it makes you feel so good about the work you do.”

Jessica values the special bond that forms when she first meets a patient before starting their chemotherapy treatment and the support and camaraderie she finds working with her fellow nurses.

“I think most patients and families may not know how much nurses truly care about what we are doing,” says Jessica. “But we really care about them and are doing everything in our power to keep them safe, well, and comforted no matter what it takes.”

Jessica’s Healthy Tip: “Drink lots and lots water every single day.”

Thomas Gast, RN

Working as a clinical nurse in the Department of Pulmonary at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Thomas faces something different everyday that keeps him moving, busy and always thinking. But he keeps calm and motivated knowing how he can make an impact in his patients’ lives. In just five months, he already has seen it well.

“I helped out a patient who was having trouble breathing and required quick action to relieve her of a mucous plug in her tracheostomy,” Thomas remembers. “Once the mucous plug was removed, she started breathing fine and was so relieved. She and her mother were so thankful, hugging me and saying thank you, thank you.”

Thomas’ Healthy Tip: “Don’t smoke!

Laurie Hogenkamp, MS, BSN, RN

Encouraging and gregarious, Laurie has been helping people and fixing things as a bedside nurse at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital for 22 years. She currently works within the Observation Unit, providing care for patients in the emergency department who could benefit from additional observation, but are not ill enough to be admitted for inpatient services.

Laurie remembers being snowed in at the hospital for three days straight during a blizzard and it stands out as one of her proudest moments as a nurse.

“I loved it because everyone really banded together,” Laurie says. “I had two nursing directors working with me as patient care technicians. We all wanted to help so much.”

Laurie’s Healthy Tip: “Get enough sleep!

Keely Pflug, RN, BSN

Keely is optimistic, reliable and personable, which has led her to a plethora of personal connections with both her patients and team members at the Northwestern Medicine Warrenville Cancer Center, where she has been an infusion nurse for almost two years. Before that, she worked as a chemo and stem cell transplant nurse at the Children’s Hospital.

“I wasn't sure how the transition would be changing from pediatric oncology to adult, but any time I receive a card or even a hug from a patient at the cancer center, I know I am doing something right,” says Keely. “It's not easy seeing the positive in cancer, but we have to in order to be present for our patients. I love my job and what I can do for my patients and I hope it shows.”

Keely’s Healthy Tip: “Just keep moving – whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally, just keep moving.”

Beth Simpson, MSN, EdM, RN, NE-BC, ONC

For Beth, there’s nothing quite like helping people move forward in their lives with renewed health and the skills to take the best care of themselves. One particular patient, only two years into her career at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, truly showed Beth the power and potential of nursing.

“She had multiple readmissions for chronic conditions,” Beth explains. “I knew I had made a difference in her life when the readmissions decreased because I had worked so hard to teach her how to take care of herself when she was at home.”

Twenty years later and now working in acute care services, the outgoing and caring nursing manager continues to share her knowledge to impact her patients’ every day.

Beth’s Healthy Tip: “Live each day to the fullest.”

Amanda Lewandowski, RN, OCN

When Amanda experienced the care, dedication and support of nursing during her sister’s leukemia treatment, she knew what she was meant to do with her life. And more recently, she has seen that impact come full circle.

“The daughter of a gentleman I had taken care of sent a message to me with the most beautiful words about the care I provided her father and how I had inspired her to become a nurse,” Amanda remembers. “To me, inspiring someone else, like my sister’s nurse inspired me, is one of the biggest compliments I have ever received.”

Energetic and sincere, Amanda administers chemotherapy and supportive care to patients at the Northwestern Medicine Warrenville Cancer Center, where she has worked for 10 years.

Amanda’s Healthy Tip: “Take care of yourself. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself!”