Nursing is deeply embedded in graduating Montana Tech student Hannah Stajcar's DNA. Just ask her mother.
Mary Beth Stajcar, a Post-Anesthesia Care Unit nurse on the first floor of St. James — and Hannah's mother — praises her daughter and what she calls the demanding but rewarding nursing profession.
"Hannah is a very good leader and really takes the initiative," said Mom. "She takes very good care of her patients, and she tries to bring humor to her job, which I think is very good."
Her grandmother, Ione McCarthy, is a retired nurse. Plus, two of Mary Beth's nieces are nurses as well.
Since 2016, Hannah the student has worked 36 hours a week as a registered nurse at St. James Heathcare — while usually taking 18 full-time credits in the challenging Tech nursing department to earn her bachelor's of science in nursing.
So with that kind of schedule that equates to working 12-hour shifts three days a week, how did she find time to hit the books?
Determination, dedication, and that darn old DNA strand — that's how.
"Just the days I'm off, I pretty much (did) homework all day," she said. "It's been hard. I wanted to get my bachelor's done in a year."
Hannah started the ball rolling, passing the national nursing boards, picking up an associate degree in 2016, completing required licenses and clinicals, and starting working at St. James as a floater between floors.
They may share key DNA, but mom and daughter have minimal contact during their shifts.
"Hannah floats between medical and surgical departments on the third and fifth floors," said Mary Beth. "I may transfer a patient to her if that patient is going to stay in the hospital. But that's the only time we would interact."
Now Hannah is a full-fledged nurse already working ahead of today's Tech graduation at the Butte Civic Center.
Looking back, the 2013 Butte Central High School grad credits a memorable job shadowing program for sealing her nursing future.
"I tore my ACL in high school playing basketball, so after that, I went through some physical therapy, and I really liked that," she said.
"So I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist. But then in my senior year I shadowed a few different health care physicians, and I ended up liking nursing the best. It has the best options."
After the bad knee injury, she was forced to sit out her sophomore basketball season. But after reconstructive surgery, she bounced right back then fast-forwarded her career in nursing.
"Job shadowing helped me know what I wanted to do, that whole semester at Butte Central High School," she added. She observed radiology, physical therapy, and nursing for a broad-based experience.
But putting Hannah over the top is an exceptional Nursing Across the Healthcare Continuum project she completed under mentor, nursing professor Moe Brophy.
Hannah interviewed an athletic, otherwise healthy 12-year-old girl and her family in Fairfield and a youth support group in Butte — all of whom suffer from children's Type I diabetes, the least-researched disease in that category.
"She learned what it's like to have that problem," said Brophy. "Throughout the semester, she gained perspective on what it's like to have diabetes and its effect on families and friends."
Hannah wrote a paper titled "We're More Than Just a Number" to complete her project. Brophy said when it's published, the paper will have an impact in the greater medical field beyond Tech and locally.
"She took the initiative and did a really great job on a topic that is affecting our communities," added Brophy.
As the Stajcars — father Mike, 2016 Tech engineering grad; brother Matt; and mother Mary Beth — celebrate Hannah's achievement, they can all rest easy that she's selected a vocation in high demand.
"It's been a very good profession and program," said Mary Beth. "There's a lot of part-time or per-diem shifts you can do so you can be available. My nieces do travel nursing right now."
Those choices appeal greatly to Hannah, who finds time to float the Big Hole River, hang out at Flathead Lake, hike, and bike in her off hours.
"I have lots of options for the future," she said, exuding unmistakable confidence.
"Hannah was an outstanding student," added Brophy. "But even more importantly, she is an outstanding nurse. She is the kind of nurse we all want to take care of our families."