Sister’s chronic illness, many nurses inspire new career

Amanda Polzen earns Sanford Equity in Education Scholarship to pursue LPN in midlife

Sister’s chronic illness, many nurses inspire new career

Amanda Polzen has a twin sister with cystic fibrosis who often needed medical attention growing up. Polzen saw her sister’s courage in dealing with this disease and also saw the vital role nurses can play in helping people lead better lives.

Now at an age when most people are done making dramatic changes in their chosen profession, Polzen, 42, is going to school to become a nurse. It is with positive memories of the role nurses have played in her sister’s life that Polzen, a youth minister for much of adulthood, is adding another way to serve others.

Recently Polzen’s health care career got a boost when she was awarded a Sanford Health Equity in Education Scholarship. It is a reward for her high level of commitment to a future as a licensed practical nurse.

“I was really shocked and felt really blessed when I learned I was getting the scholarship,” Polzen said. “I want to finish my education, become an LPN and become a really great nurse.”

The Equity in Education Scholarship program aids underrepresented and traditionally underserved populations seeking higher education. Award recipients must demonstrate exceptional character and leadership in furthering their own progress and in enriching the lives of others, especially in service, academics and community involvement and impact.

Polzen currently serves as a PRN at Sanford Health Dell Rapids Orchard Hills while taking classes that are part of an accelerated LPN program at Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

First career was youth ministry

Though she was surprised to learn she had earned a scholarship, she shouldn’t be. Her commitment to others has been an inspirational and distinctive part of her past. As a youth minister she has taken three trips to Guatemala to do mission work. She has another planned for August.

“My trips have been different every time,” she said. “You never come back from a trip to Guatemala as the same person. You become very aware of the blessings that we have here in America.”

Polzen’s sister, Angie, received a double-lung transplant 16 years ago and is now living a healthy life in Wisconsin. As a child Polzen remembers clearly her sister’s hospitalizations and the graceful way her sister’s nurses went about doing their jobs.

Grew up around hospitals

“My sister is doing phenomenal now, but growing up she was in and out of the hospital a lot,” Polzen said. “The nurses really took time to explain to me, even as a young kid, what was going on with my sister. They would even tape a fake IV to my arm just so I’d have a little better understanding of what she was dealing with. They always explained what they were doing and how they were doing it so it wouldn’t seem so scary to me.”

When years later her sister had her transplant, Polzen stayed with her for six weeks helping her with rehab. It’s another experience that contributed to her deciding to become a nurse.

Going back to full-time student status surrounded by classmates less than half her age has come with challenges but also rewards. She has one other person about the same age in her classes, she said. They agree college seems tougher the second time around but have resolved to get through it and become excellent nurses.

“It was a bit intimidating but with my experience as a youth pastor I feel like I understand my fellow students better,” she said. “My life experiences have also helped me in my classes. I’ve had several people come up to me and tell me they looked up to me because I’m doing this at my age.”

Learn more

Posted In Inclusion at Sanford, Nursing and Nursing Support, Sanford Stories, Scholarships and Sponsorships