BALTIMORE – Only three years after her receiving her BSN from Notre Dame of Maryland University, Lyndsay Rehak ’19, M’22 was recognized in May as the 2022 Nurse of the Year at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore.
Rehak, who was also announced as the Medical-Surgical Service Line Nurse of the Year before adding the hospital’s top nursing honor, never truly left NDMU after earning her bachelor’s. She immediately became a clinical instructor in the undergraduate program, and she continues to teach in that capacity this summer. After completing her master’s in Leadership in Nursing Education last semester, Rehak will join the School of Nursing as a full-time faculty member in the fall while continuing to assist part-time at Franklin Square.
Learn more about her undergraduate experience at Notre Dame, her work at Franklin Square and more:
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a nurse, and what drew you to the BSN program at Notre Dame?
I can’t pinpoint an exact moment as a child where I considered nursing, but I do remember one day when I was getting ready for school. I went to a small private school in Kingsville called Redeemer Classical Christian. I was on the phone with my mom, we were talking about where I wanted to go to college, and I just said to her, very nonchalantly, ‘I think I want to be a nurse.’
Then I had a high school advisor whose daughter attended Notre Dame of Maryland, and she told me how it was just like Redeemer. It had small class sizes, it was a Catholic institution, and it had very personable educators that were willing to take you under their wing and mentor you. So, when I decided to go to college, I knew I wanted to do nursing and I wanted a small, close-knit community like Notre Dame.
I remember doing a couple of shadow days and an overnight event where I spent the night with a sophomore student who played soccer, which I knew I wanted to play in college. I absolutely loved those experiences, so I decided to stick with it and apply. I made a lot of really great friends and did a lot of really fun activities – there’s always something to do on campus at Notre Dame. I absolutely loved the undergraduate program, and I love the School of Nursing even more.
What was your academic experience like at Notre Dame? Do you feel like it set you up to succeed professionally after graduation?
I particularly remember the first week of classes. Nursing school is very challenging, and the first week of classes for the actual nursing program can be overwhelming because there is just so much information. What you once thought you had control over when it came to school was kind of thrown to the wayside. You have to learn a whole new language; you have to learn the human body all over again. Not just the human body, but the human response to diseases and how that all occurs.
What was really encouraging, though, was that all of our instructors wanted us to be successful. One of our professors said to us, ‘Look around, you’re all going to graduate together in two short years from this program. You’re all going to do it.’ And that was just super encouraging. One thing also that I didn’t realize when I signed up to be a nursing student was the emphasis on caring science, and the theory of human caring. I just fell in love with that, because I was like, ‘Wow, this is speaking my language. I want to learn how to be a caring person.’ Not that I wasn’t before I went to nursing school, but I was your typical teenager. I didn’t know how to holistically care for somebody. Not just the body, but the mind and spirit as well.
To be able to learn those soft skills, and learn how to really be present with someone has made my job as a nurse so much easier and more fulfilling. I can go to work and seek out those opportunities to be emotionally and spiritually present with someone, which is amazing. That was really what I took from the program – to embrace every caring experience with your patients and to continue developing your caring consciousness as a nurse.
Talk about your role at Franklin Square. What area of the hospital do you work in, and what are some of your primary responsibilities?
I currently work on a 48-bed Neuro-Telemetry floor. We pretty much see everything in the Med-Surg [Medical-Surgical] world, but we most commonly care for patients with neurological disorders, whether it’s a stroke, Parkinson’s, a spinal cord injury, things like that, among many other acute and chronic conditions.
I typically care for anywhere between 4-6 patients on a daily basis. I’m also a preceptor [clinical supervisor for nursing students], so I orient new nurses as well as externs, in addition to taking clinical groups to the hospital occasionally. I’ve precepted some of the last semester students in the bachelor’s program at Notre Dame for their practicum experience.
As far as nursing responsibilities, it’s really assessment, patient care, medications, documentation, all of your typical nursing things on a very busy unit. I get to meet a lot of really great people, network with a lot of awesome nurses and physicians, and just help create and engage in the plan of care for all of our patients. It’s absolutely wonderful to be able to learn and see something new every day. It’s been a wild and wonderful time on Tower Five.
What was your reaction when you found out you were named Franklin Square’s Nurse of the Year?
I was crying. It was extra special because my mom works with me. She’s actually a unit secretary on my unit, so she got to be there for the announcement. I was very emotional. I was also kind of worried because breakfast was coming around on the unit, and I knew that three of my patients had to be fed. I thought, I really want to celebrate this, but I have to get to the floor. One of the other nurses on the floor ended up taking my phone device for a couple minutes to help my patients.
I was just so surprised, and I felt so undeserving being such a younger nurse compared to the senior nurses at Franklin Square who’ve been there for 30+ years. But I kind of took it as, this is an award for our unit. All of those nurses have created who I am. This is an award for Notre Dame because all of those nurses there created me and who I am and had a part in that. And it’s an award for my mom because she created me and made me the person who I am. I didn’t think of it as a win for myself personally. I thought of it as a win for everyone that I work with, our unit and my teams at Franklin and Notre Dame as a whole.
When did you realize that you might want to get into teaching?
I was often a teacher’s assistant or a tutor when I was in school. I tutored statistics, and then when I got into the nursing program I became what’s called a Care Coach, which is where you help students in previous semesters that you’ve already taken. You help mentor them through their courses, and I loved doing that. After I graduated with my bachelor’s, I decided to go back to Notre Dame and be a clinical instructor in the undergraduate program, and then I decided to pursue a master’s degree in nursing education because I really just fell in love with teaching and the culture of Notre Dame. I see at the bedside in my practice as a nurse how essential it is to have really caring, compassionate nurses, which is what Notre Dame seeks to produce. So that was kind of my frontier to pursuing and completing a master’s degree.
Is there any message you’d like to relay to those who are currently working towards their nursing degree here at NDMU?
Just to stay positive. Whatever you encounter in life, if you go into it with a positive mindset you cannot fail. Be positive, love and care for yourself, stay motivated, don’t let anything get you down, and don’t let anything get past you that you don’t understand.
Established in 1895, Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) is a private, Catholic institution in Baltimore, Maryland, with the mission to educate leaders to transform the world. Notre Dame has been named one of the best "Regional Universities North" by U.S. News & World Report.