During Tanya Pakulski’s (nee: Mau) freshman year of college, she had the inkling she wanted to go into the medical field, but didn’t know what direction to take. She considered getting a degree in the sciences then going to medical school, nursing was being considered, but so was becoming a veterinarian.
“I was looking at lots of different things … I loved science of the body,” recalled Pakulski, MSN, AC/NP. “I didn’t know which route to take … something hands-on with living beings.”
That all was put on hold when tragedy struck. Her brother, Ron Mau, was in a bad car wreck on April 1, 1997; two nurses who witnessed the accident rendered aid immediately, potentially saving his life and that of the woman driving the other car, The Journal Times reported at the time.
Pakulski left school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to come home and be by Ron’s bedside in the Intensive Care Unit.
There, she remembers watching the dynamics of the ICU: The doctors who developed treatment plans, the therapists beginning the years-long road to recovery. But it was the nurses who stood out to Pakulski.
She saw how they sat by Ron’s bedside, got to know him, cared for his full recovery — emotionally, mentally and spiritually, as well as physically.
“That is exactly what I want to do,” Pakulski, a Racine native, thought while still a teenager. More than 20 years later, she’s doing exactly that.
In order to stay close to her brother, Pakulski finished her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, getting a bachelor’s of science of nursing. She spent less than two years working at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., before returning home, working for what is now Ascension Health before landing a job at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.
Throughout that time, she’s been working in the area where she first developed her passion for nursing, in ICUs.
“She’s very dedicated and devoted,” said Pakulski’s mother, Blanca Amaya Webers. “She has a lot of drive and ambition.”
Case in point: Pakulski balanced marriage, raising her growing family — she has three young sons — and simultaneously pursuing a master’s in nursing with a focus on acute care from Marquette University, which she earned in 2015.
Throughout all that, she still cares for her patients in the same way nurses cared for her brother more than 20 years ago: “What we do is try to take care of our patients as a whole.”
That mentality of nursing hasn’t changed, even during the pandemic when she worked long hours and continues volunteering her time to administer vaccinations.
“She pushes on,” Amaya Webers said. “She continues.”