By Karen Long
Herman Abuchowski, BSN, MS, MPH, knows what it’s like to be a patient.
Abuchowski, who graduated from Rutgers University’s School of Nursing in December, was born without a left foot below his ankle and has spent plenty of time at doctors’ offices and being fitted with prosthetics.
But that experience — and challenging himself physically, including running a half-marathon — will inspire his nursing style and help him relate to patients.
“I learned a lot about what people need sometimes,” he said. “People don’t always have a mechanism to help themselves through a situation. Challenging myself with the prosthetic has taught me a lot about how to work through situations, how to help someone get what they need and get the most out of what they have.”
A focus on success
Abuchowski’s parents never looked at their son as having a disability, and they wouldn’t have supported his thinking that way either, he said.
“I don’t ever feel like I’m disabled or deserving of any extra credit,” he said.
Unless you see him in shorts or sandals, you’d never know Abuchowski wears a prosthesis, said Sharon Anderson, DNP, NNP-BC, APNG, instructor/course coordinator at Rutgers.
“He is an extremely bright, dedicated and able-bodied individual who understands there are no limits to achieving his life goals and career successes,” she said.
In fact, few people in nursing school realized Abuchowski had a prosthetic until he began raising awareness during a fundraiser for Walking Tall Charities, said Kristen Fitzgerald, a friend of Abuchowski and fellow recent Rutgers nursing grad. The organization helps uninsured or underinsured amputees in New Jersey, according to its website.
“It just seemed so nonchalant for him,” Fitzgerald said. “He doesn’t perceive himself as having anything that holds him back in any way.”
On the run
Though Abuchowski never ran much as a child — his prosthetic was not designed for running and was like “five pounds of dead weight” — he decided in college to challenge himself. Abuchowski said he trained on an elliptical machine, and the day after receiving a running prosthetic, he completed a half-marathon.
“It’s the excitement of the challenge,” he said. “I felt exhausted, for one, but yeah, I loved it. As you cross that finish line, it’s such a sense of accomplishment.”
But he’s not resting on his laurels: “The second I finished it, I knew I wanted to run a marathon,” he said.
Translating experience to nursing
Abuchowski’s goal is to work with pediatric patients, and that’s likely a result of his experience, he said.
“I love, love, love talking to the patients and helping them find ways to cope with situations,” Abuchowski said.
Anderson, a pediatric nurse herself, said she is thrilled Abuchowski chose nursing.
“I have no question Herman will continue to thrive in the nursing profession and beyond, and I feel extremely lucky to consider him not only a former student, but a friend,” she said.
Fitzgerald, who was president of the school’s student government association when Abuchowski was vice president, said he genuinely cares for others, is eager to learn and always is willing to help.
“He’s so ambitious,” Fitzgerald said. “Because nothing has held him back, that is something that would get relayed to the patient.”
Karen Long is a freelance writer.