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Caring for the caregivers

Chris Wojnar, critical care nurse at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee

Chris Wojnar is passionate about helping people. He’s a critical care nurse at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee who often treats patients after a traumatic event or illness. He brings patience and passion to his job because he knows what it’s like to need support.

“When I was younger, I was overweight and bullied. I actually attempted suicide,” Chris shares. “But now, I just know I’m supposed to be here.”

The trauma Chris experienced growing up along with the sadness he felt after losing a colleague in 2018, led him to seek out ways to become more resilient. His first step was to be open about his experiences in hopes of reducing the stigma around mental health issues.

“When you share things about yourself, it helps others realize they’re not alone,” he explains. That attitude has helped tremendously over the last year as Chris and his colleagues fight through a devastating pandemic.

Chris has sat at the bedside of patients with COVID-19 and floated to other hospitals to help where needed. He watched people lose their battles, and yet he continues to show up ready to help.

“We do this because it’s a calling, we’re meant to do it. But sometimes as givers, we focus and take care of others and forget to take care of ourselves,” he shares.

Recently, Advocate Aurora Health launched the Together as One Peer Support Program to empower team members like Chris to help care for each other. The program was made possible thanks to gifts to the COVID-19 Relief Fund. Employee ambassadors are trained to recognize and intervene when a colleague is impacted by stress within the workplace.  Those ambassadors can also refer team members to specialized resources in Trauma Recovery, Mission and Spiritual Care, Employee Assistance Program or Behavioral Health.

Chris is excited to be an ambassador for the program. “Resiliency, in general, is not something you’re born with, you learn it,” Chris explains. “We’re doing such good work to create that camaraderie in the workplace, and we couldn’t do it without the people who supported this program.”

How you can help

You can support team members like Chris by making a gift to the COVID-19 Relief Fund. To get started, click here.