Pin Donor: Stephanie Swartz ’74
Raquel Burnham notes that as a child she was constantly surrounded by health care and was drawn to be part of the interdisciplinary team, more specifically a calling to nursing. “I appreciated the abundance of career paths that nursing provided, while allowing me to be specialized within the field and have room to constantly grow in the profession.”
That drive to constantly better herself has been evident throughout her time at UW–Madison. A first-generation college student, Burnham has had to rely on resiliency and perseverance as she faced multiple challenges during her nursing journey. Despite those challenges, she has set wonderful examples for many of her family members and peers.
“As a first-generation college student, I value and dedicate everything I do throughout my undergraduate experience to those before me that never had the means or ability to obtain a bachelor’s degree,” says Burnham. “Receiving this nursing pin by nomination from my research Principal Investigator and becoming a part of such a valued, long tradition, reinforces my experiences and represents my successes and those of my family.”
As a result of her hard work and determination, Burnham has received several awards and has been recognized for her perseverance throughout her undergraduate career as a member of the traditional BSN program, including being selected to be in the School of Nursing’s Honors program. She has also received multiple scholarships including the Charles A. Eckburg Foundation Scholarship, the Nina Sween Memorial Scholarship, and the Kay M. Schaus Scholarship.
Burnham has a wide array of volunteering experience providing services to the community beyond the UW–Madison campus and has a passion for creating a more inclusive and diverse community.
Her volunteer work includes devoting time as a Health Occupations and Professions Exploration (HOPE) mentor with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County at UW Health. As a HOPE mentor, she worked with local high school students, particularly those who are first-generation, to help them learn about the variety of professions in health care and what paths are available to achieve those careers.
In addition to her volunteer work, Burnham has made significant accomplishments and contributions to the School of Nursing and nursing research. “Raquel has a strong passion for creating a more inclusive nursing education for nursing students,” says Maichou Lor, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the School of Nursing. “She identified the lack of inclusive and diverse clinical manifestations of racial/ethnic minority populations in course lecture materials and curriculum. As the elected student representative on the School of Nursing Curriculum Committee, she subsequently brought up her concern, and this initiation resulted in a partnership with Elsevier publishing company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. The partnership has allowed her to work directly with their publishing faculty to discuss plans on how they could measure the lack of diversity and inclusion, and plan to change their materials and programs to be more inclusive. One significant contribution that Raquel was involved in was serving and presenting on a panel at Elsevier and the National League for Nursing (NLN) to discuss gaps in nursing curricula and the need for more diversity and inclusion efforts in nursing education.”
Burnham also created an innovative honors research project to better understand the experiences and challenges of Hispanic adults with hearing loss and their caregivers. “Through this project, she found that hearing loss was a stigma in the Hispanic community, and there is a need for community educational initiatives on hearing loss and services,” says Lor. “Caregivers play a large role in their loved one’s hearing loss care, which needs to be addressed and worked with by physicians as well. This community-based project led her abstract to be selected to present at the 2022 Midwest Nursing Research Society Conference (MNRS) in Illinois.”
Throughout her undergraduate journey, she has also held several leadership positions in the Multicultural Student Nursing Organization (MSNO), including serving as vice president, president, and most recently the liaison for the School of Nursing where she helps connect MSNO members to the School of Nursing and provides opportunities and aid to students to navigate through the nursing program.
“These volunteering experiences illustrate Raquel’s mentorship and leadership in creating opportunities and an inclusive environment for minority and first-generation students on campus and beyond,” says Lor, adding, “I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Raquel to receive the nursing pin.”
Burnham’s pin was donated by Stephanie Swartz ’74, who chose to donate her pin because she wanted to give back to the School of Nursing for the excellent education she received.
Swartz found her way into nursing because she wanted a career where she would be able to help people and utilize scientific evidence in the process. Her career spanned multiple states, roles, and decades along her journey until she retired in 2020.
Swartz began her career as a new graduate at the VA hospital in Minneapolis, working in the critical care unit where she was the first new graduate hired into that role. From there, her love of skiing took her to Colorado, where she spent three years balancing shifts at the Vail Valley medical center with time on the ski slopes.
Her journey then took her to Virginia. “Former School of Nursing Dean Dr. Rose Chioni recruited me to come to the University of Virginia where I worked jointly in the emergency department and with their nursing school,” says Swartz.
She returned home to La Crosse, Wisconsin, to assist with family matters and found a role working at Gundersen Health. There, she spent 42 years in various administrative positions, including chief nursing officer, hospital vice president, and director of four service lines including emergency services, critical care, neurosciences, and medical surgical.
In remembering her time at UW–Madison, Swartz fondly reminisces about classes at 1402 University Avenue in the old School of Nursing building, recalling, “There was such camaraderie between faculty and students.”
When asked what advice she has for new graduates, Swartz says, “Be confident with the education you received at UW–Madison School of Nursing and take risks to improve yourself and contribute to others.”
Burnham hopes to do just that. “In the future, I plan to become a certified perioperative nurse (CNOR) and a certified surgical first assistant, and to explore different leadership or management roles within perioperative services,” she says. Her post-graduation plans include completing a nurse residency in the OR at Northwestern Memorial in Chicago, where she will look to embrace both a new city and a new profession.