Rutgers-Camden Nursing student deployed to fight COVID-19 graduates with honors

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Sergeant Taylor Lorchak had a lot on her plate during her final semester at Rutgers University-Camden School of Nursing. Between studying, planning for graduation, and finding work beyond the classroom, it was hard to imagine what else might come her way.

Come mid-March, she took on the most challenging task of all. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led her to be activated by the Army National Guard.

Lorchak, 25, had served as a combat medic and sergeant for four years. Due to the influx of Coronavirus cases in northern New Jersey, she was sent on short notice to the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home in Edison.

She took a one-way ticket into the VA nursing home, which was not allowing visitors. There, she became like a second family to many veterans.

She spent nearly the entire month of April working a relentless schedule, balancing her nursing practice with school work.

Donna Nickitas, the Dean of Rutgers-Camden School of Nursing, tells us the university worked to ensure Lorchak could still graduate on time. A United States Air Force Nurse Corps veteran herself, she understands the overwhelming sense of duty that more than 450 veteran students at Rutgers-Camden experience.

"When you have a sense of real purpose, the passion remains regardless of the challenge," she said.

Together with Fred Davis, Campus Director of Veterans Affairs, they conferred with professors to provide Lorchak the time and resources necessary to complete school during her downtime on deployment.

It's no surprise, considering Rutgers-Camden was awarded the distinction of becoming the first Purple Heart University among higher education institutions in the state of New Jersey. Their dedication to veterans was reflected in their treatment of Lorchak's unique situation.

Without missing a beat, Sgt. Taylor Lorchak graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing. She was also a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

"It was definitely a challenge, but I think the greatest things in life, you always have to work for," she said.

Lorchak was involved in the Second-Degree program, which accelerated her schooling. Previously, she graduated with a Bachelor's in Music from The College of New Jersey. In the future, she wonders whether her two passions could ever collide.

For now, the Claymont, Delaware resident is preparing for a one-year residency at WellSpan York Hospital in Pennsylvania, where she will specialize in telemetry.

To learn more about the nursing program at Rutgers University-Camden, visit their website.

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