Meet Joshua Zegrean (’24), a Canadian commuter who truly goes the distance in his effort to advance his career and care for others. 

This story highlights one of Concordia’s uncommon May 2024 graduates. Faculty and staff submit candidates for consideration. Stories are posted in the days leading up to commencement. View more uncommon graduates here.

Joshua Zegrean may have taken the long route to his nursing degree—both literally and metaphorically—but sometimes the journey is worth it in the end.

After three years of near-daily, two-hour roundtrip commutes from his hometown of Oldcastle, Canada to Ann Arbor, Michigan, Josh will cross the CUAA commencement stage this weekend, signifying the completion of his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. He’ll graduate Summa Cum Laude.

Opportunities for specialization

This will actually be Josh’s second undergraduate degree. In 2020, he graduated from the University of Windsor with his Bachelor of Science in Behavior, Cognition, and Neuroscience. He had planned to continue on and get his Master’s degree, but the pandemic put a damper on his plans to continue school. He knew he wanted to pivot to the health care field, but it took a beat before he determined that nursing could be a fit for him, specifically becoming a nurse anesthetist.

“I had the opportunity to shadow a nurse anesthetist in the States and I learned that I really like it,” Josh said. “I love the OR; I like that I would get to be part of the surgical team. Why would you not go further when there are those opportunities to specialize out there?”

But it’s only in America that he has the opportunity to become a Doctor Nurse Anesthetist Practitioner (DNAP). Canada has far fewer opportunities, in general, for specialization in the nursing field, and no certification currently exists that would allow a nurse to administer anesthesia, says Josh.

He’s in a good position to continue on toward his DNAP credentialing. After graduation, he’ll begin a job in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Detroit Receiving Hospital in Detroit. If he’s admitted to a DNAP program, he’ll have another three years of schooling ahead of him.

“It has been a long road of schooling,” Josh said. “I guess when it’s all said and done, I’ll have a seven-year education in 10, with an additional bachelor’s degree.”

Striving for better

Josh isn’t afraid to put in the extra effort for the end reward, however. The son of immigrant parents, Josh grew up learning the value of hard work and seizing every opportunity.

His father and mother both emigrated from Romania. His father and four friends escaped the communist regime of the ’80s in dramatic fashion – by crossing the Danube River to Yugoslavia on air mattresses under the cloak of darkness. From Yugoslavia, he earned religious asylum to Canada. In 1989, after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, Josh’s mother was able to freely immigrate to Canada as well. The two eventually met and settled in Oldcastle, which is near Windsor.

“My parents started at the bottom,” Josh said. “I watched my dad work six days a week for 30 years. I know the value of hard work, and I feel like I owe it to them to strive for a higher position in life.”

Concordia has taught me that you are the advocate for the patient. Having the technical knowledge, critical thinking skills, empathy…it’s all of it. All of it is part of being a good nurse. You have to have both heart and the head knowledge.”  

Josh Zegrean (’24), Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Compassionate care from faculty

Even Josh, with his self-described Type A personality, will admit that a strong work ethic shouldn’t supersede human compassion. Josh’s Concordia professors never failed to balance the two.

In 2021, just one year into his BSN program at CUAA, Josh was heading into a lab at Concordia when he received a text from his aunt that his father had experienced a heart attack. Due to ongoing Covid restrictions, only the immunized were allowed on the hospital floor, and Josh was the only one in his family at the time who had been vaccinated.

“It was a very scary and uncertain time because I was the only one in my family who could see my dad,” Josh said. “I went up to talk to (my professor) and before I could even finish my sentence, he was already encouraging me to go.”

Concordia’s faculty made a strong impression on him in various other ways.

“That’s what I really appreciate about CUAA’s nursing school is all of (the professors) still work,” Josh said. “I’ve had professors teaching me biology and various other subjects that have never applied it in the lab or the real world. The practical experience is really important.”

Stepping into leadership roles

In addition to faculty expertise, Josh valued the opportunities for personal development he found at Concordia. Thanks to CUAA’s size, he found plenty of ways to step into leadership roles. Some of these roles were in official capacities, like his membership with the Student Services Committee, which works together with staff to better the nursing program, or his time serving as Co-Vice President of the Student Nursing Association. Other leadership opportunities arose more organically for him.

“I used to be more introverted, but I think I just got over that as I got older,” Josh explained. “The small classes at Concordia were really great. It encouraged me to talk in class. I was that person who was volunteering questions, and I’d be the one getting the discussions going. And I think that, in turn, benefited my classmates.”

At his previous college, he found the atmosphere to be much more competitive among peers. At Concordia, Josh made a point of sharing his resources and doing whatever he could to enable his fellow nursing students.

“I guess I saw (peer leadership) done poorly at my other university and I didn’t want it to be like that,” Josh said. “After every class I would send my flashcards to everyone else.”

Josh said classmates have shared their appreciation, with some even saying they saw him as an older brother.

“I’m terrible at receiving compliments so I probably laughed awkwardly when they said that,” Josh recalled with a laugh, “but it meant something to me.”

Growth in mind, body, and spirit

These character growth moments will serve him well in his future profession. After all, nursing requires a great deal of “people skills” at the end of the day.

“Concordia has taught me that you are the advocate for the patient,” Josh said. “Having the technical knowledge, critical thinking skills, empathy, advocating, educational skills, understanding who the person is, how they communicate, the cultural nuances—it’s all of it. All of it is part of being a good nurse. You have to have both heart and the head knowledge.”  

Want in?

The Ronald and Marvel Jones School of Nursing develops nurses ready to excel in today’s challenging health care context. As a nursing student, you will learn to care for people of all ages in both acute care settings and the community.

Instructors and classroom experiences blend curricular rigor with a passion for care, a balance that develops you uniquely both to serve with professional excellence and to fulfill your sense of calling as you care and serve throughout your career.