A healthy outlook
Nurse educator is UFV's Distinguished Alumni for 2010
By Patty Wellborn
|As part of her educational approach at Virginia Mason Hospital, Tracey Vanderaegen Jones sets up a clinic for stuffed animals so children can bring them into the operating room learn about some of the procedures medical staff go through when operating on a patient.|
Admitting failure is never easy. But Tracey Vanderaegen Jones says an unsuccessful year at UBC’s nursing school is the best thing that could have happened to her.
From a young age, Tracey knew she wanted to be a nurse or work in the health care sector. She had been a lifeguard and swim instructor in her teens and taught CPR classes — to children and adults. After high school, she went directly to UBC and now laughs about how much fun she had.
“It was my first year away from home and my first year at university. To say I didn’t do well would be an understatement,” she grins. “My parents call it my expensive party year. But it shook my foundation and brought me back to reality.”
After UBC, Tracey seriously considered what she wanted to do with her life. Her goals hadn’t changed, however, so she “got her act together,” upgraded her biology, and “pleaded” with UFV to accept her into its nursing diploma program.
“I learned more in my first four months at UFV, than I learned in my entire eight months at UBC,” she says. “At UFV they focus on everybody being successful. If you work hard, you’ll do well.”
Tracey flourished in UFV’s intimate class settings — studying was once again fun. Her classmates were a small, personal, and lively group. After graduation in 1994, she worked as an on-call, casual nurse at a local hospital. She didn’t have a permanent position, so she jumped at the opportunity when she was called by a UFV nursing alumni who told her that a cruise ship was looking for a nurse and Tracey should apply.
Tracey spent three years as a registered nurse with the cruise line —handling everything from sunburn, heat stroke, motion sickness, broken bones, and sudden death. But more importantly, she met her husband Jack and ended up moving with him to his hometown in Alabama.
Through a nursing licensure reciprocity agreement, Tracey could work as an operating room nurse in a hospital in Alabama. After their first son was born, the couple moved to Seattle, partly to be closer to Tracey’s family in Langley, but also to open up new doors and start life afresh. Tracey wrote her U.S. Nursing board exams so she would work in Washington State.
“It was brutal. Those exams are written for textbook study, not nurses who have been working on the floor for a while.”
Tracey was hired by Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle in 2002 as an operating room nurse. She also continually trained fellow nurses in CPR and it was during this time she was approached to take on the interim educational position in the Operating Rooms. When that door opened, it led her on a new path to become the perioperative educator (the nurse who trains RN’s to work within the surgical suites) at Virginia Mason.
Tracey Vanderaegen Jones
When she took on her role in 2004, it was suggested by her director that she also find time to get her degree in nursing. And because she truly believes in lifetime learning, she was eager and happy to get herself back into the classroom. While getting the preoperative program organized, and working on sterile procedures, residency programs for OR nurses, and setting hospital and OR policy, she took some courses (computer and management skills).
“Tracey demonstrated from early in her tenure that she understood what nursing is all about,” says Valley Medical Centre perioperative educator Diana Frawley.
“Almost without exception, she puts the students first. I suppose doing well in nursing is easy if you are, as she is, driven in equal measure by both quality and safety.”
Tracey earned her degree from the University of Washington this March (3.9 GPA), and has been accepted to begin her Masters this fall. She continues to work educating and orientating new RNs and ensuing operating room nurses are fully trained and their qualifications are up-to-date. Her role of orientating new OR nurses is the perfect combination of her teenage dreams of a career in health care and education.
“I was a lifeguard as a teen and had always taught CPR. I always wanted to be in education in some way or another. And while I loved working in the operating room, I missed the teaching aspect, so when this opportunity came up, it seemed the best of both worlds.”
With her job and her education, you’d think she’d be busy enough. But family is also extremely important to Tracey and she, remarkably, finds time to volunteer and coach both of her sons’ ice hockey teams. Again, it was a role that just landed at her feet. She loved figure skating as a child; she had her boys on skates as toddlers and when they signed up for hockey, they needed coaches to help the kids learn to skate. She also volunteers with her sons’ Cub Scout groups, at their schools, ball teams, and in the community as a volunteer first aid attendant. She also organized a Teddy Bear clinic where school-aged children could bring a stuffed toy to a mock medical clinic where they could learn about hospitals and operating room procedures.
“Tracey sets the bar high for herself and others — she always puts the needs of patients first and works to ensure that excellent care will be provided,” says Constance Hirnle, Clinical Nurse Educator at the University of Washington’s School of Nursing. “She is an outstanding nurse, educator, and manager with excellent organizational, motivational, communication and clinical skills. She goes the extra mile and is a true team leader.”
It’s through her volunteer spirit, natural teaching ability, and continual education of the nursing staff at Virginia Mason Hospital, Tracey has received a number of awards and community recognition including two nominations for a community salute from KIRO TV, and acceptance into the Sigma Theta Tau Honour Society for nurses and the Golden Key International Honour Society. She has also been invited to conduct a professional development workshop for senior hospital executives at a national conference next year. This year, she has been named UFV’s 2010 Distinguished Alumni.
Regardless of all the accolades and awards Tracey has received, she is certain of one fact. UFV ended up being more than place to earn a nursing diploma.
“Sometimes I wonder where my career might have taken me if I hadn’t attended UFV. None of this would’ve happened,” she says. “UFV gave me my career and UFV sent me travelling around the continent where I met my husband. I believe things happen for a reason, and there was a reason why I ended up at UFV.”