CHERYL BUNTZ ’98 graduated from Graceland with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Shortly after that, she became a critical care nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the Kansas City VA Medical Center.
This was quite an accomplishment as the VA did not readily hire new nursing graduates into their intensive care units. Buntz’s response to that opportunity has been 24 years of dedicated service to the VA. Throughout these years, Buntz has demonstrated leadership abilities and provided exceptional bedside nursing and frontline care. She has coordinated and implemented process improvement procedures, mentored and trained fellow nurses, earned various certifications, and contributed in ways that have allowed her to utilize her experiences, training, and talents as she moved into nurse leadership roles. Today, Buntz continues to serve the veterans of Kansas City and surrounding areas as the Chief Nurse of Inpatient Services and the Emergency Department.
With an impressive career and numerous accomplishments to speak of, there’s one recurring theme Buntz comes back to: building connections. The value of this skill is not new for her — it is part of the story of how she became a nurse. Buntz earned her first degree in biology from Graceland in 1993. It wasn’t until she learned about the nursing program and met the faculty that she discovered her path. “Even though I was in my twenties and still trying to figure myself out, they saw leadership potential,” Buntz said about the Graceland nursing faculty. The academics and clinical opportunities were top-notch, but it was the relationship with the faculty that made Graceland’s nursing program unlike any other. From the ever-present support throughout school and clinicals to the thoughtful consideration when diversifying teams within the cohort to allow for varying perspectives, the faculty were focused on enhancing both clinical and soft skills. They wanted to ensure that the students were ready to enter the world prepared to contribute to society.
The leadership potential the faculty saw in Buntz was quickly realized, and although responsibilities have shifted throughout the years, her desire to put people first has remained the same. “As a nurse, hands-on with patients is the cup-filling piece, but as you move to a leadership role, you ask yourself, what is filling my cup? My cup filler is my investment in the people I work with,” Buntz commented. It is focusing on her team, understanding where they’re at and what they need to do the job to the best of their abilities and the highest standard of care.
When asked what advice she’d share with current nursing students, it was no surprise that it had little to do with the clinical aspect of nursing and more with the connections with others. “The big thing is to remain true to who you are and hold your peers to the standard of best possible care. Lift them up, and in turn, they’ll help lift you.”