Nancy Romanchek has made it her mission to open doors for Muslims to have access to healthcare, hospice care and intentional care of the spirit. Nancy has worked in various capacities throughout her 30-year career as a nurse, from the Medical ICU in the VA hospital, to medical cost containment. Her journey has now led her to passionately advocate for the underserved Muslim population; reducing stigma and providing access to health care.
In 2001, Nancy practiced as a Faith Community Nurse in a Catholic church in Wisconsin. It was during this time when she first noticed that Muslims had no visibility on the interfaith healthcare stage. After relocating back home to the Chicago area in 2006, Nancy felt a calling to serve patients and families experiencing death and dying. She found that despite the U.S. census numbers, a Muslim patient presence was missing in this arena as well. They were not seeking the specialized care to which they were entitled.
At the same time, Nancy learned that chaplains trained in interfaith ministry to the sick, were not receiving education on Islam in Seminary. In the hospital setting, they were being asked to serve Muslim patients, with no preparation to do so. Nancy approached staff at the Lutheran School of Theology and together they developed a two-day workshop. As an increasing number of chaplains attended each session, Nancy hoped that they would each return to their own communities to promote peace and offer improved services to Muslim patients and their families through a greater understanding of Islam.
Since then, Nancy became a member at Islamic Foundation North (IFN), a mosque in Libertyville, where she quietly but persistently made inroads to establish a Faith Community Nurse position. With the support of the IFN community members, she has taught CPR/AED and First Aid classes, developed a Mom’s group, helped initiate a Women’s Advocacy Committee, and began a Mental Health Initiative that is focused on providing culturally proficient ways to serve those in need.
Most recently, Nancy collaborated with a team to establish the IFN Health Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured and underinsured in Lake County. While most visitors are Muslim, the clinic is open to anyone in need. The clinic offers physician consultations, access to lab work, radiology and low- cost medications. The staff also connects patients with social services, like Medicare.
Nancy believes that her path in nursing and Islam were destined to converge. According to Nancy, “Nurses are holistic thinkers, are flexible, and recognize that faith is colorblind.”
The Nurse Award is presented to a licensed and practicing nurse, nursing student, or retired nurse who exhibited heroism either in their response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community through acts of kindness, courage or unselfishness in response to an identified need.