Peter Joncas is about to put the caregiving skills he learned at Our Lady of Peace (OLP) to good use. This month, he will graduate with a nursing degree from the University of Minnesota and will begin a career in health care.
At age 16, Peter got a summer job at OLP. When he went off to college and needed to pay his rent, he advanced to year-round employment as a dietary aid, and has been serving comfort food to patients ever since. “I’ve gained a lot from this job. I feel a sense of purpose, doing whatever I can to make our patients’ last moments here are as good as possible.”
With a heart for serving comfort food, Peter is happy to deliver on special requests, from hotdish to strawberry short cake and lutefisk. “We have set menus, but we’re always happy to accommodate. I had never made lutefisk before, and it was fun to do it,” he says with a smile.
“A lot of patients want to eat the food they ate as a child, and there’s a wide variety of requests. I’m sure I’ll never get the opportunity to make lutefisk again.”
Clearly comfortable in a hospice environment, Peter admits that it wasn’t always easy. “Witnessing the dying process was a bit of a shock at first, and hard to overcome, but my understanding of death grew over time. Now I’m able to put my feelings of discomfort aside and focus on giving patients my best and making sure they’re happy.”
It’s clear that Peter’s energy, positive attitude, and flexibility will serve him well in his role as a nurse. “I’ve always been interested in health care. At first, I looked at being a paramedic, but
being at OLP gave me experience working alongside nurses, and seeing what they can do for patients. I think that inspired me to choose nursing for myself.”
In his final month of nursing school, Peter is currently doing a clinical shift at a detox unit at Fairview Hospital on the west bank. He says, “I’m really enjoying it, and hope to land a job there once I pass my boards, and other requirements.” Peter also admits that he will miss his OLP colleagues. “I love everyone who works here. It’s a great group of people, and we’re all very close knit and driven to provide the best care possible.”
Happy graduation, Peter! And thank-you for your service to Our Lady of Peace.