Dr. Traci Krause came to Springfield in May 2023 to serve as the chancellor of St. John’s College of Nursing. She had spent a decade as dean of the School of Nursing, Health Sciences and Wellness at Minneapolis College and prior to that was the assistant director of nursing in the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

click to enlarge Q&A with  Dr. Traci Krause

An Iowa native, she served as a nursing instructor in Estonia
during her time in the Peace Corps and she credits that experience with her decision to obtain a master’s degree in public health and nursing.

Krause and her husband, Michael, have three adult sons: Jackson, Harrison and Tyler. Krause obtained a certification in photography during her time at Minneapolis College and also enjoys baking in her free time.

Where did you grow up, and what was your first job?

I grew up in the northern Iowa town of Mason City. I was a nursing assistant in a nursing home when I was 16 years old. Back then you could just walk into the nursing home and get a job. Now you have to get a background check and training, but it was much easier then.

When did you decide on a nursing career?

I am kind of an accidental nurse. I went to college the first time for elementary education. At that time in my life, I thought I never wanted to leave northern Iowa, but there weren't a lot of jobs so I substitute taught for about two years. I found substitute teaching to be a rough job, so I wanted to do something different.

I never thought I could handle that "icky" factor of being a nurse, but I was a nursing home assistant and there was some ickiness there. So I went back to school, and I had to take an anatomy and physiology class where we did dissection. After I did that, I thought, "OK, I can do this."

What did you experience during your service with the Peace Corps?

Other than having my three sons, that was probably the most significant life-altering change for me. I worked on the adult psychiatric unit in Mason City and was engaged to be married. My fiancé and I responded to an ad for the Peace Corps. It took about a year before we were invited to go to Estonia, and we were married by then.

It was about four years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Very few people in Estonia spoke English. We did three months of intensive training, including instruction in how to speak Estonian. I grew so much because it was such a challenging experience. When we came back to the United States, I appreciated how fortunate we are here. We have this abundance that many people in the world do not have.

The Peace Corps inspired me, so a month after we left the Peace Corps, I entered Johns Hopkins University to earn my master's degree in public health and nursing.

What drew you to the HSHS position in Springfield?

We lived in Minneapolis at the time, and I worked at a large community college there. I loved my job and was not actively looking for another one, but HSHS reached out via LinkedIn. I was a nurse with advanced degrees so I had gotten those messages fairly routinely, but there was something about this job that made me want to look deeper.

I saw that the college was attached to a much larger health system so finding clinical spots for nursing students wouldn't be an issue like it was where I was at in Minnesota. Plus, the school's history is so unique – it was founded in 1886 by Franciscan sisters who came across the sea from Germany. I had a very diverse student population in Minneapolis and probably half of my students were multi-lingual, they grew up speaking a language other than English. I thought about how those Franciscan sisters' journey was so similar to that of the students I had in Minneapolis.

What strengths does the St. John's College of Nursing have, and what needs improvement?

We really focus on individualized attention because we are relatively small. We also promote excellence in education. One of the major strengths is being part of St. John's Hospital and HSHS; it allows our students to have so many amazing clinical experiences. I have invested staff and faculty – everyone is there to educate that next generation of nurses who are going to go out and make a difference with compassion and care.

The school in Minneapolis had 10,000 students and a large faculty. Because of our small size at St. John's, the bench isn't that deep. But the great news is, with the people that work there, if we don't have the answer, we figure it out.

What opportunities and challenges are there in the near future for the nursing profession?

The pandemic was hard on the nursing profession. It prompted many in that mid-generation of nurses to decide to retire. There's such a nursing need throughout the whole country so continuing to educate nurses remains a key priority.

Nursing is generally not representative of communities in the United States. There is a lot of opportunity there to attract students of color and more under-represented communities.

click to enlarge Q&A with  Dr. Traci Krause
Left to right: Middle son Harrison, oldest son Jackson, husband Michael, Traci and youngest son Tyler pictures in December 2020.

What advice would you give to young people who are considering the medical profession as a career?

Helping people feeds your soul, and nursing is a sacred calling. You see people in both the worst and best moments of their lives and that is really special and important. You have to understand that what you are doing each day is making a difference in people's lives.

Now that you've been in Springfield for about a year, what do you like most about the community?

Springfield is a nice-sized community, it reminds me of where I grew up in Iowa. The weather is generally better than in Minneapolis. There is a lot to do here; I still do a lot of the tourist stuff. There are also good people here, it's that Midwestern sensibility of being kind and helping out your neighbor.

What may people be surprised to learn about you?

I love to bake. I try not to do it too much because it's too easy to eat those baked goods. I make great brownies and cookies, and I make birthday cakes every year for my adult children.

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