Carlos Estrada, RN, Oncology, Northside Hospital Atlanta

AJC Celebrating Nurses honoree: Carlos Estrada, RN, Oncology, Northside Hospital Atlanta

Registered Nurse Carlos Estrada is a cancer survivor and a 13-year Army veteran with service as a combat medic in Afghanistan.

With that background and his nurse training, he cares for patients in the oncology unit at Northside Hospital Atlanta with energy and compassion, according to co-workers.

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“He always goes above and beyond for his patients, and they often describe him as ‘caring’ and ‘goes the extra mile,’” said friend and fellow Northside nurse Meghan Stephenson.

While in the military, Estrada beat nasopharyngeal cancer after a year-long battle that included tough rounds of radiation. The treatment left him with permanent symptoms he has to deal with daily, Stephenson said.

“With all of that being known, Carlos is still the most positive, energetic, compassionate nurse I have ever had the pleasure of knowing,” she said.

Estrada said he had always been interested in a career serving others and thought about social work or counseling as potential careers coming out of high school. Because he didn’t have the finances to go to college and didn’t want the burden of college debt, he joined the military instead.

Estrada said the Army gave him “amazing opportunities” in leadership and service, and he “loved everything about his military service.”

After leaving the military, Estrada decided to pursue a nursing career. While in nursing school, he was part of the Northside Nurse Extern Program and worked in the Northside Hospital Forsyth ICU. He considered a career in critical care nursing but changed to oncology after caring for a bone marrow patient in the ICU.

Estrada realized his past cancer diagnosis positioned him well to help others going through a similar journey.

“I felt that it would be an awesome opportunity to pay it forward,” he said. “What I went through — while it wasn’t terrible — some of my experiences made me feel like I was a diagnosis and not a person.”

Estrada is determined not to let his patients feel that way. He said he doesn’t want his own experiences to overshadow what the patient is going through.

“I definitely try to approach each patient in a way that cares for their needs, and with the understanding that every single journey is completely different,” he said. “I respect all the approaches people have in dealing with cancer.”

Estrada said the recognition from his peers at Northside is “humbling.”

“It makes me feel like my purpose is being fulfilled of me going through cancer and now being able to use my experience to help others. It’s a true blessing and an honor,” he said.