LA JUNTA – Life experiences often light the path to a future career. Sometimes life’s toughest moments draw out the personal qualities and strength that move a person toward their calling.
Otero Junior College alumnus Roxie Keen found her future pathway as the 20 year old mother of a terminally ill son. While learning from the caregivers involved with her son, Keen developed skill and interest in the medical field and a respect for holistic care. When her son passed away just shy of his 10th birthday, Keen knew it was time to pay it forward.
At the age of 33, Keen decided to enroll in nursing school. In an effort to find the program that would be the best fit, Keen visited several two-year nursing programs in southern Colorado. “I chose OJC hands down,” said Keen. “There was a passion and conviction for standards and high expectations. The program was very structured and organized. You knew what was expected at all times.”
Going back to school was no easy task. Keen had two young daughters and her husband, active in the Special Forces at the time, was deployed out of the country most of the time while she was in school.
“My grandmother came out and took care of the kids,” Keen explained. “I worked hard to get my studying and homework done between classes so that when I came home, I was Mom. Home time was for family.”
One of her fondest memories of nursing school at OJC involved a group project where the students were asked to set up a mock code blue at AVRMC from start to finish. “We had to choose a patient to simulate cardiac arrest, notify Med-Surg., find a crash cart and assign duties as people entered the room,” explained Keen.
“OJC’s instructors were always looking for opportunities to teach and chances for students to practice skills. There was a strong emphasis on critical thinking, having a good work ethic and upholding a high moral code,” Keen added.
“I loved clinicals! My favorite part was finding out who my patients would be each day and learning their stories,” said Keen.
After graduation, Keen began working nights in Obstetrics at Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo. Difficulty with the nighttime aspect of this position led her to change to home care and this eventually led her to hospice care. Keen’s love of holistic care and learning her patients’ stories have rooted her in this area of nursing.
Keen is currently a regional administrator for Sangre de Cristo Hospice and Palliative Care. She is in charge of the rural offices in the southern and eastern regions of Colorado and the office in Raton, NM.
“Hospice incorporates the physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of a person. It is a very holistic type of care,” explained Keen. “It is a privilege to be a part of a person’s end of life journey. Your job is to learn as much as you can about them so that you can support what is sacred to them.”
Keen enjoys the one-patient-at-a-time focus of hospice care. “All of your attention is on that one patient. There are no interruptions from other patients’ call lights or doctors needing assistance. It’s all about service to that one person.”
Keen’s dedication to service has been recognized. She was one of twenty nominees from the southern Colorado region for a Nightingale award, along with five other OJC alumni: Katherine Bueno, Heather Dittburner, Deanna Hostetler, Sherry McBee and Melanie Riccillo. Keen was one of four chosen from that group of twenty to advance to the state level committee as a Luminary.
“It was an honor to be recognized,” said Keen. “Only 36 out of 60,000 nurses in the state were recognized at this level.”
Keen’s passion for nursing and hospice care transferred to others in her family. Daughter, Cassie is a private hospice care provider. Daughter, Britany, followed her mother’s footsteps through OJC’s nursing program and is currently employed as a hospice nurse. Keen’s mother also went back to school to become a nurse and is now a hospice administrator.
While reminiscing on her time at OJC, Keen recalled a phrase she heard spoken frequently by her instructors throughout her studies, “Do right with your heart, your head and your hands.”
There is no doubt that Keen has done just that.
OJC alumni are invited to update their profiles at http://www.ojc.edu/ojcAlumni.aspx to keep their connection to OJC current. Include information on how you put your own OJC education to work and you may be contacted for a future feature story. If you know of an OJC alumnus who would like to share his or her story, please contact Sue Samaniego at (719) 384-6821 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Otero Junior College’s nursing program, contact Denise Root at (719) 384-6894. To see how Otero Junior College can help get you started on your path to success, visit our website at www.ojc.edu, email email@example.com, or call (719) 384-6857.