PITTSBURG — Driven by her passion in the field of nursing and teaching, Pittsburg State University Instructor Tracy Stahl walked across the stage once more during commencement on Friday.
This is her fifth time graduating from the university, this time with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree she began in June 2016.
As a Pittsburg resident, right out of high school Stahl said she knew where she wanted to go.
“I chose PSU because it was a school I always admired growing up and I just loved the atmosphere that PSU emits and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.
Stahl participated in numerous clubs and activities — including a sorority, dance team, clubs and honor societies.
Stahl graduated the first time in 1989 with a BBA in Marketing. A few years later she came back and completed a masters in business administration in 1990.
Her father became very ill shortly after she completed her masters degree, her experience at the hospital ultimately guided her into another field: nursing.
For 22 days, her father was at St. John’s Hospital — now Mercy — where Stahl watched the nurses day by day take care of her father.
“I observed nursing care from a particular nurse that really, really made a difference in my father’s last days, and really impacted my family in a positive way,” she said. “Because of that, I wanted to try to make that same difference in other people's life.
“I completely changed course and went into nursing.”
And to nursing school she went.
She earned a BSN in 1994 and took a job at Via Christi Hospital working in labor and delivery, nursery, postpartum, pediatrics, and medical-surgical nursing.
“When I switched into nursing, it just seemed like the logical place to go because of the reputation PSU has for excellence in preparing nursing students,” she said.
For 15 years, she helped deliver babies.
“During that time would I would train new nurses, new graduating novice nurses and I developed a passion to teach nursing students on floor during clinical rotation,” Stahl said.
Stahl was once again inspired to go back to school, where she earned an MSN with a Family Nurse Practitioner Emphasis in 2009.
She began practicing as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) at Girard Medical Center Clinics in Girard.
“The education that I received from PSU and the Girard Clinic mentors of Dr. Paoni and Dr. Salvador empowered me to succeed as a nurse practitioner, but I still wanted to teach,” Stahl said.
In 2010, she accepted a teaching position in the School of Nursing at PSU while maintaining an “on call” practice at GMC, and at the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas in Pittsburg. She teaches pediatrics and pharmacology, and one day each week takes students to on-site clinicals — pediatrics at Freeman Health System in Joplin and obstetrics at Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg.
Stahl worked at the clinics to keep up with her expertise on patient care, which she put on hold until recently to go back to school once again, to complete a terminal degree in nursing.
Stahl said she wanted to receive a terminal degree in her field, which can also qualify her to be eligible for a tenure-earning position in the school as the opportunity arises.
For Stahl, it is exciting to graduate, however she said it’s even more exciting to celebrate the next generation of nurses, who she said “go on to do absolutely amazing things.”
As an instructor, Stahl said it is rewarding to see her students give care to others, including one student who took care of Stahl’s mother while she was in the hospital.
“It made me so proud,” she said.
“Though I’ve graduated five times, my honor is not with my graduation, but with the success of my students that graduate,” Stahl said.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.