Stahl earns fifth degree from PSU

  Thursday, December 6, 2018 3:30 PM
  People and Society, Academics, News, Milestones

Pittsburg, KS

Tracy Stahl

When Tracy Stahl first started college at Pittsburg State University as a bright-eyed, energetic freshman in 1985, she chose Marketing as her field of study. 

She was actively involved in campus in numerous organizations, earned honors, and had a positive experience. 

But it wasn’t what she was meant to do. 

After completing her bachelor’s in 1989, followed by her MBA in Business Administration in 1990, she changed paths to pursue something completely different: a nursing degree.   

Her inspiration hit close to home: her father had been ill and was a patient at Mercy Hospital — then St. John’s — in Joplin, Missouri, for 22 days. 

“That’s when everything changed for me,” she said. “I personally observed the nursing care that my father received from one particular nurse who was so caring and compassionate with my father, and he made a difference for my father and our family in my father’s last days.”   

Fueled by the desire to make that same difference with other patients and families, Stahl enrolled as a student yet again: this time as a student in PSU’s Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing. 

She earned her BSN in 1994 and took a job at Via Christi Hospital working in labor and delivery, nursery, postpartum, pediatrics, and medical-surgical nursing. During her 15 years there, she helped deliver hundreds — perhaps thousands, she speculates — of babies and care for thousands of patients. 

But she also was actively involved in training new, novice graduate nurses. 

And once again, Stahl was inspired. 

“I developed a passion to teach the nursing students who were on my floor during their clinical rotations,” she said. 

And once again she returned to school — this time to attain her MSN with the goal of teaching at the college level. 

She graduated in 2009 with that degree and began practicing as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) at Girard Medical Center Clinics in Girard, Kansas. 

“The education I received from PSU and my mentors, Dr. Adam Paoni and Dr. Lisa Salvador, empowered me to succeed as a nurse practitioner,” she said, “but I still wanted to teach.” 

In 2010, the opportunity arose for her to do that at her alma matter, and she accepted a teaching position in the School of Nursing while maintaining an “on call” practice at GMC, and at the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas in Pittsburg. 

Since then, she's spent her days training students to become nurses. 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. Her students have gone on to careers at hospitals across the country. 

She also tries to spend time working in the clinics as a nurse practitioner in order to maintain her level of expertise and skills when it comes to being on the front line of patient care. That had to be put on hold recently, however — Stahl wasn’t quite done earning degrees. 

On Dec. 14, she’ll walk across the stage at Commencement in John Lance Arena to receive her fifth degree from PSU: a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) that she began in June 2016. 

"We are so fortunate to have a teacher like Tracy," said Cheryl Giefer, director of the School of Nursing. "Not only does she have years of clinical experience she can share with her students, she also is a role model and inspiration to them to keep learning and growing in their profession. We're very proud of all she's achieved." 

Stahl said her love for teaching motivated her to attain the terminal degree in her profession. Ultimately, that degree will qualify her to be eligible for a tenure-earning position in the school as the opportunity arises. 

"I feel a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and relief,” she said.  

But the biggest personal reward, she said, wasn’t the degree. 

“It was when my mother was ill and in the hospital five years ago,” Stahl recalled. “One of the students I had trained in school was there, caring for my mother as a nurse, and that was amazing. It made me feel so proud. What I had taught a student was being put into practice before my very eyes. That’s what it’s all about.” 

A family thing 

Stahl and her husband, Greg, of Pittsburg, have two daughters enrolled at PSU, as well. The oldest, Aubri, is pursuing a degree in Computer Information Systems with an emphasis in System Design and a minor in Web/Interactive Media, and will graduate next December. The youngest, Kate, is a freshman. Her plan: to pursue a degree in nursing.