Kristin McVay was always a self-proclaimed social butterfly who didn’t aim for leadership. And yet, at just 30 years old, she is an accomplished leader: she’s the Peri-Anesthesia Manager for St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, holding a dual master’s in Science in Nursing and Health Administration. Still, when asked what her current role is, she answers, “Taking care of patients on the front line, and taking care of the people who take care of them.” She calls the Surgicare and Recovery Room staff at St. Luke’s a family, citing a sister relationship among the many caregivers. McVay’s door remains open as we speak, and she takes notice of and waves to each person who passes by. “Surgicare is pre-admittance testing and pre-surgical preparation. It is the front door to surgery and the recovery unit. All ages come through here, and we’re the patients’ first and last impressions surrounding their experiences.”
McVay enrolled in Kirkwood’s Nursing program in 2001, and after a three-semester wait, charged through the next two years to obtain her Practical Nursing degree. She was a social but studious student, worried about getting good grades. “Kirkwood’s reputation in the community is strong and favorable. Their structure, their dedication to nursing – these students function very well in the real world settings after just two years of being in Kirkwood’s Nursing program.”
McVay credits Kirkwood for her ability to function well in the real world. Though compelled to care for others, the most important lesson she discovered at Kirkwood “was learning work-life balance. When you are spending so much of your time caring for others, it’s important that you also learn to care for yourself.”
McVay’s caring attitude extends beyond the workplace. She and members of her extended family meet every Saturday morning for breakfast. The kids rule that time, she notes, but it’s the time of week she looks forward to most.
McVay mentions that she always felt at home at Kirkwood, and she strives to provide that same feeling of family at St. Luke’s. Her passion for the nursing practice drove her to seek the next step in her career after graduating with her two-year degree. “This career has always shown me what the next step will be. As a leader, I’m happy in my role. There is always excitement in shaping surgical services and shaping the community.”
This philosophy also carries through in her advice to current students, whether coming to or leaving Kirkwood. “Never stop learning. Kirkwood Community College is the greatest launch pad… It’s affordable, it gives you a great foundation and only takes two years to complete a course of study. Kirkwood cares about your success. I never felt like a number when I was in school… I have a lot I owe to Kirkwood. The people there worked so hard and cared so much that I was able to do well in life.”