Drew Molacek and Cody Carlson have also excelled in high-pressure situations.
Whether it was on the football field or in the classroom, the Stanton graduates always stepped up as leaders. Both have traded in their pads and cleats for scrubs and masks as they stand firmly on the frontlines of COVID-19 as traveling nurses.Drew on the east coast and Cody on the west.
“It’s stressful. Yeah, super stressful right now,” said Drew, who has spent the last year in Los Angeles. “But it’s rewarding, too. I definitely feel like I’m making difference.”
Drew, who graduated from Stanton in 2006, may be making more of an impact than he realized. He’s also serves as a mentor for Cody, who graduated from Stanton in 2014. Cody said he was inspired by Drew and his older brother, Zach Molacek, to earn a nursing degree and now travel.
“I always looked up to Zach and Drew,” Cody said. “As I looked into being a traveling nurse, I asked Drew a lot of questions and he helped a ton. He’s definitely been huge in me doing this.”
Drew admitted he’s always followed in his older brother’s footsteps. Zach earned his undergraduate in applied human and sport physiology at Wayne State College
“I’ve always done what Zach as done,” said Drew, who is the son of Dan and Kim Molacek. “Nursing felt like it would be a good career for me, so I went for it.”
But when Zach turned right to become a nurse anesthetist, Drew went left — literally — and spent two years working the pit with NASCAR legend, Hendrick Motorsports, in Charlotte, N.C.
He went to an NFL tryout in Omaha, where 85 athletes were invited to a tryout in Charlotte to be part of the NASCAR pit crew. Drew was one of just a handful offered a job.
“I knew about NASCAR, but I never dreamed I’d be given the opportunity to be on a pit crew. But it was lug nuts and changing tires,” Drew said. “They wanted athletes who could learn the job. Every second in the pit is 20 seconds off a lap, so speed is huge.”
Drew said he loved the experience. Still, he had dreams of nursing and started applying at schools about 18 months into working for Hendrick. He was accepted into the Remington College of Nursing in Orlando. After graduation, Drew opted to become a traveling nurse, rather than a staff nurse.
“I enjoy experiencing different places, towns, all the different foods,” Drew said. “I just get to experience a lot more places through this.”
Drew said being a “single guy with no pets” may make it easier for him for the profession since contracts are 3 months at a time. However, he’s spent the last year in L.A. and doesn’t plan to leave for a while.
“I was in the Bay Area, but I’ve been in L.A. now for the last year. I think I’m going to stay in L.A. for a while,” he said. “I love the mountain biking and hiking. I can drive two hours and be in the mountains for skiing.”
Drew said he leaves the stress at the ICU. The activities help him forget about his patient load, which he said is a very somber job because it includes the sickest of sick COVID patients. But on his off days, he can relax and enjoy life. With the current situation, he’s very cautious and wears a mask everywhere, except on the trails.
“I’m miles from anyone. It’s total isolation, which is great,” Drew said.
Cody has spent the last few months as a traveling nurse, most recently at Stamford Hospital in Fairfield County, Connecticut and is preparing to move to the Pennsylvania to continue working on the east coast. He is the son of Dean Carlson and Jane Carlson and is married to Jaden Estes.
Cody went to the University of Nebraska-Kearney to study nursing and played football for two years before focusing on nursing.
“That was the most important,” Cody said. “It’s a tough program, so I played football for two years and then focused on nursing.”
Cody earned his nursing degree through UNMC and immediately began working as an ICU nurse at CHI Health Good Samaritan in Kearney. Like Drew, Cody wanted the opportunity to travel the country and work in the nursing field. Being a traveling nurse has also allowed both to have a higher income.
Cody said his contract this spring in Connecticut, which was his first as a traveling nurse, began as that area was just starting to see a decrease in COVID numbers, and by the time he left last week, the number of patients on ventilators had normalized. Ironically, he left Kearney just as that area was seeing an increase in cases.
“Being a traveling nurse has been a great experience,” Cody said. “I’d recommend the opportunity to others and encourage them to consider being a traveling nurse if it fits into their lifestyle.”