Middle School Athletic Trainer Kosciuk Focuses on the Whole Person
Goodness, she is kind and genuine. Elle Kosciuk gets it. She understands what a special opportunity it is to live and work with young people in a small town. She soaks up the enthusiasm and energy shown to her by her young student-athletes and does her best to teach, heal, and encourage. She’s got a creative soul, embracing music and food as wonderful ways to connect with other people. Kosciuk is a licensed athletic trainer (LAT) within ThedaCare Orthopedic Care, contracted full time to Shawano Community Middle School.
LATs are licensed medical professionals in Wisconsin with biennial obligations for continuing education and competency testing. Today’s colleges and universities offer undergraduate majors in athletic training and graduates must sit for a certification exam before applying for a state license. A two-year master’s degree program is on the horizon.
With a little over a year under her belt since graduating from Clarke University in Dubuque and accepting an “ideal first job” just an hour from her hometown of Winneconne, Kosciuk is poised to embrace a world of possibilities. The fact that she’s assigned to primarily middle school-level kids is progressive in its own right.
“When I go to conferences around the state and introduce myself and tell them where I work, I’m still one of the only middle school LATs in the room. I love that Shawano values our expertise. The kids at this age are just sponges — a very fun population.”
Students and parents benefit when schools contract for athletic training services. LATs can evaluate a sports injury on site, start rehab, and often safely return an athlete to the field, taped or braced and ready to go, in a short amount of time depending on the severity of the injury. “And that’s not because we are rushing things, it’s because young athletes can turn around quickly, and our specialty is sports medicine for young people,” Kosciuk said.
Kosciuk relishes the opportunity to work alongside parents, athletes and coaches to provide the right care, at the right time, in the right place — often right in the school’s training room. “I work with a lot of families from lots of different backgrounds, and this is an incredible value being provided by their school. Families don’t have to pay out-of-pocket for my services,” she said. Schools contract ThedaCare LATs to be present at both practices and home games throughout a sports season, and they help reinforce safety and fundamentals taught by coaches. “We are the eyes on the field that can help keep kids safe.”
When Kosciuk is finished attending to middle school football, basketball, wrestling, and track athletes, she heads over to the high school to help cover their athletic events. Hours are generally afternoon far into the evening hours, and she and her peers bring a very special perspective to the field. Take football injuries, for example. They require expertise in splinting, stabilizing, and prepping athletes for transport, both with and without pads and helmets. She and her colleagues know how to recognize a true heat emergency, a condition that could be fatal if not properly treated. Because Shawano has a concussion treatment protocol in place, Kosciuk also works with academic officials to coordinate recovery for students who’ve suffered concussions.
Kosciuk and her colleagues within ThedaCare Orthopedic Care document all parent and athlete interactions and can record them in the ThedaCare electronic medical record for reference by the student athletes’ ThedaCare primary care or specialist physicians. Standards of patient confidentiality are the same in the training room as a doctor’s exam room.
Makin’ Music and Food
Kosciuk played volleyball, basketball, and soccer through high school and continued her distinguished volleyball career at Clarke University. She’s always been passionate about singing and dancing in local musicals and decided to finally invest in her dream to learn to play guitar after graduation. “There’s the nicest little music shop in Shawano called Makin’ Music. I got a nice deal on a guitar and Dave (Habeck) even taught me how to play it.”
Young people she knows from school are pleasantly surprised to see their athletic trainer playing guitar at a local youth praise and worship night. “It’s another chance to connect with them and be seen as a person they can come to.”
This same guitar is also a new vital connection to home and her close-knit family in Winneconne. Kosciuk has an older sister Corrine with Downs Syndrome and autism. “She loves music and uses it to remember things and organize her day. I can call home now and play guitar to her on the phone. It’s so much fun for both of us,” Kosciuk said. Born just 11 months apart, “I cannot imagine life without her.”
Kosciuk recently returned home for the evening to watch her other (younger) sister Sadie sign a national letter of intent to play Division II volleyball at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. “My family and our cousins are all more like brothers and sisters. We grew up going to each other’s sporting events and concerts. We are still very close. That’s why this job in this town is so wonderful.”
Beyond creating and sharing recipes she finds on Pinterest and making more and better music, Kosciuk aspires to someday coach high school or college volleyball. Her passions are both athletics and human development. “It’s an opportunity to connect with young people and help them understand how important it is to take care of themselves — and each other. Invest in the whole person. Let each individual know he or she is valued.”
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 240,000 patients annually and employs more than 7,000 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 34 Cares in 9 counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Care Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Care experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.