REPOSTED from The Times Tribune by Ana Scott

West Scranton woman’s passion for helping others extends to nursing career and humanitarian work

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JASON FARMER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER West Scranton resident and registered nurse Maryann Cwalinski recently returned from a service trip to the Dominican Republic.

 

Freshly graduated and posing in her crisp, white lab coat, Maryann Cwalinski stands ready to fulfill her nearly 30-year-old dream.

Sitting in front of the Weinberg Memorial Library at the University of Scranton, where she received her bachelor’s degree in nursing just several days before, the West Scranton resident recently recalled the event that made her passionate about the profession in the first place.

At the young age of 22, one of Ms. Cwalinski’s closest friends passed away from cancer. Ms. Cwalinski was present at the time of the diagnosis, and after watching someone she loved go through such suffering, Ms. Cwalinski knew that nursing was a career worth pursuing.

“I felt after that that this was my calling,” said Ms. Cwalinski, now a registered nurse at Allied Services.

However, the interest may have begun earlier than that. When Ms. Cwalinski was 5, she wound up in the hospital with pneumonia. The nurses there made quite an impact on her, so much that her aunt, Reinelda Pantle, purchased a nurse’s outfit that the tot wore everyday during her hospital stay. She even took to following the pediatric nurses on their rounds.

While in school, Ms. Cwalinski spent a period of time still trying to decide whether or not to study nursing.

Upon graduating, she took a job working at an optician’s office as an office manager. But, following her friend’s death, Ms. Cwalinski decided to leave her position to attend Luzerne County Community College and Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County to become a licensed practical nurse.

In June 2012, she started working as a rehabilitation aide at Allied Services. After graduating, she advanced to an LPN position.

While she was pursuing her master’s degree, Allied allowed her to work per diem.

“I’ve worked my way up through the health system, which has helped my career also,” she said.

Service learning

Ms. Cwalinski has not only used her determination to work for herself, but for others as well.

In March, she went on a service trip during the university’s spring break to Sosua, a small town located on the northern coastline of the Dominican Republic. She traveled with nine other nursing students and two instructors.

The group worked with Impact Ministries, a nonprofit organization, to treat local residents as well as Haitian refugees. Over the course of five days, they saw more than 1,000 patients.

She said the children in the villages would walk with the students and hold their hands. They were overjoyed when the students gave them simple items like shoes.

“We would give them sneakers and it didn’t even matter if they fit,” Ms. Cwalinski said. “They don’t understand our English, but they understand our kindness.”

The experience changed the way she saw the profession, Ms. Cwalinski said. “It makes you more humble. I told my niece and nephew, I wish I could take them to see.”

Now, Ms. Cwalinski’s future plans include enrolling in graduate school to advance her career and become a nurse practitioner.

Her career is the result of hard work and a passion that has never waned. On Ms. Cwalinski’s graduation day from U of S, she decorated her cap with the quote, “She believed she could, so she did,” a maxim that perfectly encapsulates her can-do approach to life.

Contact the writer: ascott@timesshamrock.com

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Meet Maryann Cwalinski

At Home: She lives in West Scranton and is the daughter of John and Debbie Cwalinski.

At Work: She works as a registered nurse at Allied Services in Scranton.

Inspiration: Her family, who are always understanding and supportive of her decisions and her work.

Aspiration: To attend graduate school to become a nurse practitioner and to move to the Philadelphia/South Jersey area

Aversions: People with a sense of entitlement

Diversions: Running and yoga

Quote: “She believed she could, so she did.”