February 26, 2021

Volunteer Spotlight: Patrycja Czarna, 2020 Clinic Volunteer of the Year

This month we talked to Patrycja Czarna, one of our 2020 Clinic Volunteers of the Year. A Medical Laboratory Scientist and Nursing Assistant at Rush University Medical Center, Patrycja has been with CommunityHealth since all the way back in 2014! She volunteers as a Polish Medical Interpreter, Laboratory Shift Leader, and COVID-19 Vaccinator and currently has over 500 hours of service.

Patrycja Czarna of Chicago, IL

In a few sentences, tell us more about yourself and your background!

My life changed dramatically when I moved to the U.S., from Poland, in 2004. I was exposed to a new culture, a new country, and new customs. As tough as this experience was, especially in the beginning, it made me the person I am today.

I graduated from Rush University with a Bachelor of Science in medical laboratory sciences in 2016. Since then, I have enjoyed an exciting career in the world of clinical labs. However, my ambition kept me wanting more. I have always been drawn to the world of science and healthcare. I am passionate about health promotion and disease prevention. Currently, I am pursuing a Master of Science in nursing, also from Rush University; I hope to use this valuable education to keep advocating for and improving access to care for the underserved communities.

Is there a specific area of healthcare you are interested in or healthcare experiences you are seeking?

My current dream involves a career in public health nursing. Down the line, I am interested in pursuing a Doctorate in Primary Care Nursing. However, I would like to gain several years of experience in the field first – perhaps in critical care and/or community-based care.

Outside of volunteering with CommunityHealth, how do you like to spend your free time?

Sadly, free time is a luxury when you are a graduate student! Still, I try my best to take breaks and enjoy life. Weather and pandemic permitting, I enjoy hiking and traveling. If I could, I would take a couple month long backpacking trip in South America. Other than that, I enjoy staying active at the gym, scrapbooking, and of course, volunteering at CommunityHealth.

Why and how did you begin volunteering at CommunityHealth?

During my undergrad, I heard about a volunteering opportunity at CommunityHealth through a friend. At the time, I had no true direction in life, and thought it would be something fun to do. I began volunteering as a Polish interpreter. However, it was not until a couple years later that I truly got involved with the clinic. I started picking up more shifts, interacting with other clinic volunteers and staff, and seeing the amazing impact it had on the Polish and Spanish communities of Chicago. I felt grateful and privileged to be a part of the team. After a few more years, I began volunteering in the laboratory. This was my bread and butter! Being a lab leader gave me an opportunity to see first-hand the difference we make here. It is safe to say, that CommunityHelath helped me find my true passion and direction in life.

What has kept you volunteering all this time?

The patients, other volunteers from different disciplines, and the clinic staff! Volunteering is my escape from the stresses and chaos of the life of a graduate student who also holds three jobs. Essentially, volunteering at the clinic gives me a break, eases my mind, and as cheesy as it sounds, makes me happy.

What is something you’ve learned from volunteering at CommunityHealth?

Over the last 7 years, I have seen many volunteers come and go; however, what they all had in common was the compassion and the dedication to providing best care to the underserved communities of Chicago. I have also learned that there is always room for growth and improvement. CommunityHealth has adapted and made improvements throughout the years to fit the needs of our communities and unforeseen events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

What advice would you give to a new volunteer at CommunityHealth?

Get involved, follow your passions, and enjoy yourself! Volunteering at CommunityHealth will open your eyes to health disparities that need to be addressed and the potential to make a noticeable difference.

We’re so grateful for Patrycja’s many years of dedicated service to the team and patients at CommunityHealth, and we look forward to continuing to watch her grow and excel!