Nurse educator dedicates herself to kids with diabetes

Nursing Education Specialist Franni Vlahovich is so dedicated to Camp Granada that her family knows to circle that week on the calendars at home.

Her interest in the camp—one of eight diabetes camps in the state hosted by the American Diabetes Association, and the only one south of Chicago—began when she was an undergraduate student and hasn’t waned.

When Vlahovich (pictured far left) began working at Carle, Sandi Burke, former Carle nurse and the camp’s lead nurse, asked Vlahovich to work Camp Granada, too. She immediately accepted and then four years later, when Burke retired, took over as an administrative lead.

“Over the years, I have realized—and those who know me best have realized, too—that this is just part of who I am,” Vlahovich said. “I don’t really think about leaving because the payoff is so great.”

Vlahovich is just one of the people spotlighted in Carle’s recently release Nursing Annual Report. In the report, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Pamela K. Bigler, RN, MS, NEA-BC, FACHE, says: “We are blessed with a great group of nurses, providers and staff that follow the north star of placing the patient first.”

Vlahovich said Camp Granada is for students ages 8-16, and about 150 usually sign up. For many, this camp is the first time they are away from home for an extended period of time.

Vlahovich first helps the parents understand that their kids will be safe and have a fun time. They swim, rock climb and take on other activities all under the watchful eye of about 80 staff members.

“Over the time the kids are here, you really get to see them grow,” she said.

Beyond having fun, organizers emphasize organic growth, rather than formalized education, which Vlahovich believes can encourage kids to understand themselves better.

“The knowledge the campers gain is invaluable, in large part, because many are the only students in their school with diabetes,” Vlahovich said. “They build friendships very quickly, and are no longer singled out.”