Non-traditional alumna’s hard work and remarkable achievements pay off for healthcare patients
Carrie Kirkley ’16 took the long road to SOU after growing up in Sacramento, CA, but her accomplishments as a non-traditional alumna are second to none. Carrie’s father was battling cancer for seven years about the same time Carrie’s first son was born in 1997. Sadly, her father passed two years later when she was nineteen but the hard work, dedication and compassion of his nurses, inspired her for a lifetime.
In 2007, Carrie and her husband Kevin, moved to the Rogue Valley where she secured a job at Valley Immediate Care as a medical receptionist and medical assistant. Eventually, she enrolled at Rogue Community College (RCC) to pursue an associate’s degree in general studies, which she finished in 2012. She transferred her credits to SOU in 2012 and began working towards a biomedical science degree while taking chemistry and physics courses. In 2013, she applied for and was admitted to the Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) School of Nursing on the SOU campus. It was then that her advisor told her she was only six classes away from earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology at SOU. She took the rigorous nursing program courses and buckled down to finish her SOU degree. During this time, she was working two jobs between Valley Immediate Care and Asante Three Rivers Hospital in Grants Pass, and raising four boys at home. While at Three Rivers, she applied for and passed her Certified Nursing Assistant license. “Lots of Dutch Bros coffee got me through that time period,” she said. To make it even more of a challenge, Carrie’s husband, an Oregon Army National Guard officer, deployed to Afghanistan for a year.
Despite the two jobs, four boys and working on two degrees simultaneously, Carrie graduated from OHSU with her bachelor’s degree in nursing and SOU with her bachelor’s degree in psychology the spring of 2016. “I loved my psychology courses, particularly with Matt Vogel and my capstone professor Dr. John Taylor. There is a certain level of psych-social development that I believe all nurses need, especially working with our rural population. Behavioral neuroscience and health psychology is integral to the nursing profession and I’m thankful for all of those opportunities at SOU that helped me to help others,” she said.
She continued her work at Three Rivers but then had the opportunity to work with veterans at the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics (SORCC) in White City as a Behavioral Health Care Manager with responsibility for over 1,000 veterans. “My job at the SORCC placed me with responsibility to ensure our veterans coming out of the inpatient rehabilitation program were connected to primary care, referrals, housing and employment opportunities. You name it, we did it all with the help of our interdisciplinary teams. We were a jack of all trades for veteran’s health,” said Carrie.
Recently, Carrie’s husband was transferred to Arlington, VA to begin a position with the National Guard Bureau. She began work at Inova Fairfax Hospital’s Woodburn Surgery Center as an operating room nurse and charge nurse in Annandale, VA. And just to add to her outstanding record of achievement, Carrie earned both an MBA and an MSN in Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems from Grand Canyon University in 2020.
Carrie is thankful for the opportunities SOU has given to her as nursing and psychology go hand in hand. She uses this inspirational quote from Maya Angelou to guide her mission to provide exceptional patient care with every experience. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Learn more: Inova Healthcare