May 29, 2008
Chipola College nursing graduates Tracy and Michelle Mears have made a name for themselves in the local health care industry.
After overcoming a traumatic event and meeting the challenges of education, this husband and wife nursing team is enjoying tremendous success.
Tracy serves as RN Charge Nurse in the Emergency Room of at Jackson Hospital in Marianna. On paper, Tracy’s story looks like many other high-achievers, but his plans were complicated by a serious automobile accident in 1999. Tracy served as a Paramedic for more than 14 years before the car crash changed his plans. He suffered broken legs, a crushed ankle and associated injuries that put him in a wheel chair for several months.
"It was a lesson in humility," said Mears who was accepted to Chipola’s nursing program after the accident. "When I met with Kathy Wheeler (Chipola’s Director of Health Science programs) I hobbled in on crutches and breathless. I told her that I wasn’t sure I would be able to enter the program because I wouldn’t be able to walk very much. She told me she would do whatever was necessary to help me finish the program."
That encouragement was all Tracy needed. He went right to work, completing Chipola’s ADN program and earning RN certification in 2004. Tracy continued his education, earning the BSN from FSU in 2006. He is currently enrolled in the Masters program at FSU in the second year of the Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) program.
Now Tracy is helping other health professionals with their education. He teaches Advance Life Support courses for the American Heart Association and serves as a clinical preceptor—a medical term for mentor—for students in their final year of the RN program at Chipola and the University of South Alabama BSN program. He has also worked in the Intensive Care Unit at Jackson Hospital.
Michelle completed her RN training at Chipola in 1999. Since then, she has served at Jackson Hospital, Calhoun-Liberty Hospital and Blountstown Health and Rehabilitation. Currently, she is a Senior RN Supervisor at Sunland Center in Marianna.
Michelle also taught some classes for a time in Chipola’s Certified Nursing Assistant program. She has high praise for the Chipola nursing program. "The resources were readily available and Kathy Wheeler really helped. The availability of a nearby college with clinicals in Dothan was a big plus."
Of working together in the same field as her husband, Michelle says, "We worked together when he was an EMS captain and I was a nurse at the hospital in Blountstown. We tried to look out for each other and make recommendations about patients. It was helpful to work together. We can communicate without having to say much at all. We both enjoy interacting with people and helping people stay healthy."
Tracy said the roles of the nurse have expanded tremendously since the couple joined the profession. The Mears’ roles have changed as well with addition of daughters, Brittany Nicole, who is four, and two year-old Heather LeAnn.
Kathy Wheeler, Chipola’s director of Nursing, says, "Michelle and Tracy Mears are great success stories for the Chipola Nursing program. They possess the qualities so highly desired in the profession: compassion, knowledge and advocacy. They provide valuable services and serve as excellent role models for our community."
For information about Chipola’s Nursing program, call 718-2316.