5 Nurses Share Why They Answered Their Calling

An oncology nurse who was the only grandmother in her nursing school classes. A nurse whose near fatal illness kept her out of the military but led her down the path to a new, fulfilling career. Every ProMedica nurse has their own story of commitment and compassion. This National Nurses Week (May 6-12), we say thank you to every one of our nearly 5,000 nurses who live the ProMedica Mission to improve the health and well-being of patients and community members. Get to know a few of our proud ProMedica nurses as they share why they decided to go into the nursing field.

Nurse Carrie Colwell

“Nursing is my calling. It’s the reason I’m still here.”

Carrie Colwell
6NS Cardiac Medical Surgery Nurse at ProMedica Flower Hospital

“Why are you so happy?” “Why are you all smiles?” “You are awfully chipper this morning after working all night.” As I hum a tune at work, these are the questions asked or thoughts mentioned by the patients I care for, or round with day to day during my shift. I simply answer, “Because I am happy, I am doing what I love to do, and I am doing what I was called to do.” Nursing is my calling. It’s the reason I am still here.

When I was 18 years old, I thought I had life all planned out. I was signed up and sworn in to join the military. But I became very ill. I was septic after a tonsillectomy and almost died. I prayed to God to spare my life and I would heed his calling. The military would not take me after two weeks of hospitalization and antibiotic therapy for a month outpatient. I had developed a heart murmur and was too weak to go to boot camp. I heard his calling loud and clear and love that I have found my purpose—to be a nurse!

Nurse Elaine Bender

Elaine Bender
Medical Oncology Nurse at the Hickman Cancer Center

I always wanted to be a nurse. I talked about becoming a nurse from the young age of 6 years old. After high school, I was devastated because my family could not afford to send me to nursing school. We never borrowed money, so a loan was not possible. Life happened, and I got married and had two wonderful twins and a great family. I was a manager of a book store for 20 years. I often thought about nursing but just kept putting it out of my mind. When my kids were grown and out of the house, I decided to retire from the book store and I enrolled in nursing school. I was the only grandma in my nursing class! I loved school and loved finally learning all about caring for people. I was like a sponge; I couldn’t get enough. I took a part-time job at Toledo Hospital on the oncology floor as a unit clerk/nursing assistant. I was offered a full-time job there before I graduated from school and I have worked in oncology my entire nursing career. I love nursing!


Nurse Denise Dufour-McAvoy

“The nurses in the NICU were my angels…I wanted to be like them.”

Denise Dufour-McAvoy
Acute Care at ProMedica Bay Park Hospital

My daughter was born 12 weeks premature. She was a tiny little thing. I was a first-time mom and was so scared about what to do to care for her and what the future would hold for us. The nurses in the NICU were my angels. They were so patient and kind and understanding. The four and a half months that she was in the NICU was both the worst and best time of my life. Those nurses touched me in a way that I could not quite comprehend. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to make a difference in a life the way they made a difference in mine.

I did not think that I could be a nurse. Nursing was for the elite, right? I wasn’t so sure that I fit in to that category, I was just me, after all. I went about my life as usual, but the thought never went away. As luck would have it, it happened that at the age of 44 I found myself about to lose my job. I lived in Connecticut at the time and companies kept closing and moving out of Connecticut to states that had lower taxes and lower cost of living. I decided that it was time to make a big move. Do the unthinkable, make a total career change. I enrolled in school, started my classes and never looked back. I put everything I had into this new endeavor, and I succeeded. I graduated, passed the NCLEX and started looking for a job in Connecticut. My sister, who lives in Erie, Mich., kept sending me information about ProMedica and a nurse residency program. Connecticut did not have something like this. The more I looked in to all that was available, the more I was intrigued. I sent in an application and resume and was able to land an interview. I flew out, did the interview and was made an offer! Maybe I was part of the elite group after all!  I accepted the job at Bay Park in the Acute Care unit.

Nurse Deb Osentoski

Debbie Osentoski
Breast Care Nurse Navigator at ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital

My mother is a nurse, and always inspired me. During nursing school, my grandfather was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, and my mother and I took care of him. It was during that time I became inspired to explore oncology nursing, and it has been my passion for 32 years.


Sonya Vukadinovich
Women’s Center at ProMedica Defiance Regional Hospital

I became a nurse because of a nurse. I was born with a birth defect that required numerous surgeries as a child into my adulthood. There was one nurse who inspired me to be just like her. Her compassion for my 6-year-old self created a spark in me that never went away, even 30 some years later. I never knew her name; I can’t even tell you what she looked like. I can tell you, though, she had caring, honest eyes and her words were genuine, kind and warm. She made me feel safe and the fear I felt in that pre-op room faded away. She has an awesome and calming power over me all because she was compassionate.

If you’re a nurse or your life has been impacted by a nurse, please share your story in a comment below.