Lisa Cantore Letzkus ’04 RN, MSN, CPNP-AC, CCRN, once a student athlete and now a nurse, believes the cooperation of both her coaches and teachers allowed her to excel beyond her goals in the classroom and on the field. Letzkus graduated from Shenandoah with a Bachelor of Science (BSN) degree in nursing.
During her years at Shenandoah, many of her classmates and friends couldn’t understand how she managed to study nursing and play soccer. Letzkus credits her coaches and the Shenandoah faculty for providing a supportive environment.
Last fall, she returned to campus for the 50th anniversary of nursing celebration and shared the excitement of the moment as President Tracy Fitzsimmons announced the naming of the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing and unveiled the plans to erect a new Health & Life Sciences Building on main campus.
“Dr. Ganske was actually one of my professors. Now that she is the first dean, it’s just amazing to see the transition and how Shenandoah has grown over the years,” Letzkus said.
When deciding where to study nursing, Letzkus had a few options. In the end, she loved the hands-on curriculum offered at Shenandoah.
“Shenandoah integrated clinicals right from year one, so you learned information in class and then directly applied it to the patient population you were seeing in clinicals,” she explained.
After graduating from Shenandoah, Letzkus moved home to Charlottesville, Va., and worked for two years as a pediatric ER nurse at the University of Virginia Health System. She pursued an acute-care pediatric nurse practitioner degree and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. Returning to her hometown, she worked for four years as an inpatient pediatric nurse practitioner at Kluge Children’s Rehab Center (KCRC). The closing of KCRC in 2012 led Letzkus to relocate back to the main hospital. Letzkus is now the director of a new complex care pediatric consulting service and provides care for children with medical complexities in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units and on the acute-care floor. She has a heart for children and loves pediatrics.
Her daily routine includes morning rounds, establishing a medical plan of the day and setting goals on how children can get home safely and transition back to their daily activities. In addition, Letzkus is back in school to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia (UVa), specializing in brain injury.
She attributes her successful career in nursing to her grandmother, who is a retired nurse. Letzkus’ mother works as a lab technician at UVa.
“I’ve been around the medical profession all my life, so I always knew it was my calling to be a nurse,” said Letzkus. “My grandmother is one of my best friends. Growing up, I listened to her stories. I see her on a regular basis, and if something bad happens at work, I’m able to talk to her about it. We have a connection, and she really understands. She has supported me all of these years, and I really look up to her.”
Letzkus’ passion to become a nurse and her love of soccer led her to choose Shenandoah and begin her amazing nursing career.
“I loved the sense of community and family,” said Letzkus. “I loved that it was a smaller school and that I wasn’t lost in the crowd.”