“I graduated from high school on a Friday and started in Moraine Valley’s Phlebotomy Program the following Monday,” Laurie Keating said. She had to support herself, and she needed a good job with insurance.

“I knew phlebotomy would provide that, so that’s how I started my health care career.” She always wanted to become a nurse, so a few years later, she returned to Moraine Valley to earn her associate degree in nursing.

Keating said she was well-prepared to start her career after completing the college’s Nursing Program. “It’s really challenging, so when you graduate with your associate degree, you are ready for anything. I appreciate everything I learned at Moraine Valley and can’t say enough about the program and what it did for me as a nurse.”

After graduating, Keating worked in several hospitals and health care settings. She started at Christ Hospital as a CNA and then began working in the operating room.

“That seemed exciting. But then I realized I talked too much to work in the O.R.,” she quipped. She later worked in trauma, ICU and transplant units. “I took care of a lot of heart, liver and other kinds of transplant patients and really grew as a nurse. Then, I got injured at work, so I went to an office setting and worked in orthopedics. I think everything happens for a reason, because that experience pushed me to go back for my bachelor’s degree,” Keating said.

Keating’s responsibilities over the years have included hiring nurses, and she said, “I don’t hire nurses based on their degree. I hire based on their abilities, and I love hiring nurses with an associate degree. When I worked in that area, I loved hiring Moraine Valley graduates because I knew the foundation they had was strong, since that’s where I came from.”

She eventually earned her master’s degree, and last year, she become an emergency department manager at Saint Anthony’s Medical Center in Rockford. She says working during the pandemic has been “stressful, yet enlightening to see the passion, resilience and compassion of the nurses. When they take their masks off, you see the redness on their noses and the tears in their eyes. You also see the love in their hearts. Then, they come back the next day and do it all again,” she said.

Keating and her team see about 100 patients each day, so they are extremely busy. She believes her job as a leader is to keep the team motivated.

“We do a huddle in the morning, and I keep telling them, ‘I’m so proud of you. Thank you for coming back to work today.’ They are so courageous, and I call them warriors,” she said. Sometimes when the patient load is great, she jumps in. “There’s many a day I take off my business clothes, put on my scrubs and throw my stethoscope around my neck. I don’t ask my team to do anything I wouldn’t do. I pride myself on that.”

Keating had a house fire a few years ago and recently contacted the college to see about getting a replacement for her Moraine Valley nursing pin that was lost in the fire. She worked hard to earn the pin and is glad the college gave her a new one. “The pin means so much to me because Moraine Valley was the foundation of my education. It’s where I started,” she said.