By Joelle Moran Staff writer
Going the extra mile often goes unnoticed in the nursing profession. So when accolades and awards are given, it’s unexpected.
That couldn’t be more true for Tracey Anderson who was named the 2010 Nurse Practitioner of the Year.
"I almost fell out my my chair when I got this call from Margaret Fitzgerald (a renowned leader of NP education) and she told me that I had won," said Anderson, a critical care nurse practitioner and director of neurocritical care program development at University of Colorado Hospital (UCH).
"I was honored that I was nominated and that they considered me, but it was not anything I was expecting," she said.
Anderson, MSN, CNRN, FNP-BC, ACNP-BC, was chosen from several hundred nominees nationwide and presented the award by Fitzgerald in May at the National Conference of Nurse Practitioners (NCNP) in Chicago.
The recognition for her work came about thanks to Anderson’s colleague and friend Mary Tierney.
As a nurse practitioner in Neurovascular Interventional Radiology at UCH, Tierney works closely with Anderson and knew she wanted to nominate her friend after attending the NCNP conference a few years ago.
"She is somebody who is incredible with everything she does and doesn’t get the recognition," said Tierney, RN, MSN, ANP-BC, FNP-BC.
Tierney recruited Anderson to Colorado 10 years ago and they worked together at Longmont United Hospital as NPs before eventually joining UCH.
In her nomination letter, Tierney wrote: "[Tracey] has a true gift for caring and exemplifies all the attributes that this award represents; clinical expertise, leadership, community service and education. She is respected by patients, families, physicians, staff, students and peers and is known as the ‘go to person’ when clinical advice or direction is needed."
When the NCNP called Tierney to ask how to contact Anderson to tell her she had won, she said she bawled.
"I really thought she should win. I was only surprised in that usually the great people don’t get recognized. I was very pleased for her," Tierney said. "She deserves it and is someone who always goes the extra mile to make sure patients and nurses are well taken care of."
One of Anderson’s biggest accomplishments was leading development of UCH’s Stroke Program. From 2006 to 2008, she was clinical director for the program which formalized a hospital-wide structure and process for stroke care.
The first year of the program, Anderson said the hospital saved about $2.7 million and reduced hospital stays by 496 days by creating a process to move stroke patients through the hospital more efficiently.
"It was very exciting to take something that had been started by a couple of forward- thinking physicians and develop it into a true structured program, monitoring quality measures and outcomes," she said.
Anderson also led the way for UCH’s Joint Commission Certification as a Primary Stroke Center, which recognizes the hospital’s excellence in stroke care, in 2008. The certification recognizes programs that meet standards in terms of response times, as well as a higher level of care based on intervention, rehab services and patient education. Formalizing the structure and meeting such standards can take four or five years in many cases, but Anderson said the dedicated team at UCH achieved it in less than a year.
Anderson has worked as the NP for neurosurgery at UCH for five years, seeing and managing patients and assisting in the operating room. She is also responsible for the development of the neurocritical care MD and NP fellowship programs.
In addition to her work at UCH, Anderson also works as an NP for Emergency Physicians of the Rockies at Poudre Valley Health System’s Medical Center of the Rockies (MCR) in Loveland and Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. She is also a clinical nurse specialist at MCR, where she works on standards of care and nursing education and development, driving the clinical practice of nurses in the ER.
Anderson’s career didn’t start out in critical care. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Services in 1987 from Northern Illinois University and worked in that field until she went to nursing school. She earned her ADN in 1992 from Elgin Community College in Illinois and worked in critical care for 12 years before she decided to become an NP. She became board certified as a family care nurse practitioner after earning her MSN in 2001 from DePaul University in Illinois. She completed her acute care NP postmaster’s certificate from St. Louis University in 2009. She is also credentialed as a certified neuroscience registered nurse (CNRN).
When working in the ICU, Anderson said she "kind of fell into" neurosurgery by default as she ended up with a lot of patients with head injuries and was asked by several of the neurosurgeons to help manage their patients once she completed her NP program.
"I like the acuity of neurosurgery patients. It’s very challenging and you can’t always predict what they’re going to do," she said. "I enjoy critical care, so it was a nice fit."
Anderson said she loves working in an exciting environment in which there’s nothing the neurosurgeons won’t teach her to do, making her work challenging.
"It’s a wonderful place to be. There’s so much to learn."