How DuPage nurses rushed to the rescue on an overwhelmed Wahlburger

Nurses save lives. That’s what they do. A group of elite registered nurses from Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital stepped outside their comfort zones to rescue an overwhelmed hamburger chain that was on life support.

“If there is a group of people who understand the shortage of staff and are overwhelmed, it will be a group of nurses who have been through a pandemic,” said April Marrs, 30, an emergency room nurse from Winfield.

The nurses, who all work at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, attended the prestigious Magnet Conference in Atlanta in mid-November for the top 10% of nurses and hungry after a day of seminars. “We wanted a quick bite and we thought Wahlburgers would work,” says Mandy Haberman, 37, Magnet Program manager for the hospital.

It took an hour before the nurses got a seat, and the besieged Wahlburgers hostess went to the sound system several times with messages apologizing for the delay.

“You could just feel the stress from these people, and we’ve all felt that,” said Jordyn James, 32, who lives in Glen Ellyn and works in pediatrics.

With instincts honed like a stepped-down nurse handling cases in the intensive care unit, 27-year-old Sarah Steger from Carol Stream jumped into the fray.

“I just get a napkin and start writing down our orders,” Steger remembers thinking. Then she got an actual waitress and told the landlady that she could take orders at other tables.

“I thought it would relieve stress. She looked at me as if I was crazy,” says Steger, noting that the opportunity was almost as if she were a Make-A-Wish child. “It has always been my dream to be a waitress. As a 12-year-old, I decided to become a nurse. Until then, I really wanted to be a waitress at Red Lobster.”



Nurses have made an extra effort since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.  But when these nurses from Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital are in a restaurant that needs no help, they jump to the rescue and take orders and serve burgers.

Nurses have made an extra effort since the pandemic began nearly two years ago. But when these nurses from Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital are in a restaurant that needs no help, they jump to the rescue and take orders and serve burgers.
– With permission from Northwestern Medicine

The hostess fulfilled her wish. “Before I knew it, I was working,” says Steger, comparing the haste to a popular restaurant-based video game. “I felt like I was playing Diner Dash.”

Surgical nurse Amara Costello, 28, of Elgin, and professional development nurse Jennifer Raitt, 44, of Montgomery, immediately joined Steger, James, Marrs, and Haberman in the volunteer effort.

“I know my colleagues have my back. No one had any thoughts about it,” Steger says. “Let’s just get them through this night. That’s what we do.”

With trays of beverages and delivery of burgers and chili cheese tots, the nurses worked more than three hours until the restaurant closed.

“We can feel really busy. I know they do their best,” Haberman says.

Among the best in their profession, the nurses also proved to be quite good servants.

“I just lost a lemon. That’s the only thing,” James admits.

“I did something messy. Obviously you have to put the orders in the computer, but I did not,” says Steger. “It was my first day.”

The restaurant staff and patrons, some of whom were nurses from the conference, appreciated the effort. The nurses attached themselves to a family celebrating the gender revelation of their upcoming baby girl and a couple on their first date.

“I gave dating advice to Rodney and Amy,” Steger says.

“We want invitations to their wedding,” Marrs says.



An elite pediatric nurse at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, Jordyn James and her nurses move up to work on a shift at an overwhelmed Wahlburger in Atlanta.

An elite pediatric nurse at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, Jordyn James and her nurses move up to work on a shift at an overwhelmed Wahlburger in Atlanta.
– With permission from Northwestern Medicine

What appeared to be an evening filled with stress, disappointment and anger turned into a fun evening. The appreciative restaurant crew said they would not have made it through the night without the nurses.

“When the nurses stepped in, it changed the energy,” Haberman says. “The whole night got better. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in so long. I said to my husband, ‘I went to bed smiling’.”

David Haberman suggested to her that most people, including him, would not have thought of just jumping into the chaos and starting to take orders and deliver burgers.

“Well,” says Haberman. “You’re not a Magnet Nurse.”

The nurses all work in different wards, but quickly got to know each other by working together, which they do in their real jobs.

“I am willing to put extra hours on my shift,” Steger says. “You’re just thinking, ‘How can I help?’ You want to make things better. “

After finishing their shift at Wahlburgers, the nurses missed their scheduled appointment to have fun in an escape room. So a bunch went karaoke instead, and still reached the next day’s last conference schedule on time.

“It was fun,” says Steger, who notes that the stress of serving food on time is not the same as taking care of patients who are sicker and offer more challenges due to coronavirus. “No one coughed at me.”

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