From transplants to travels to high-tech:

BSN grad discovers nursing’s infinite possibilitiesCordtz graphic

(11-7-12) Carolyn Cordtz (BSN ’08, center, at right) has assisted with open heart surgeries and scrubbed in on heart and lung transplants. Worked as the head nurse for a surgical team in Haiti after the country’s devastating earthquake.  Traveled across the country, from Florida to California, as a travel nurse.

But it wasn’t until she moved away from patient care that she found her nursing niche. And that, she says, is the beauty of the field.

“This career path isn’t just one path,” says Cordtz, who grew up in New York and Atlanta, and currently lives in Santa Monica, Ca., where she works as an implementation consultant for Surgical Information Systems (SIS), a company offering perioperative IT and anesthesia software systems. “There are so many different options when you have a nursing background. If you want a change from the OR, you can switch to the ICU; you can go into education; you can work in a clinic; you can become an advanced practice nurse. Or, you can go work for a software company.”

Cordtz cut her nursing chops as an OR nurse on the cardiac surgery team at Emory Hospital in Atlanta for two years after graduation from the University of Virginia. But after a mission trip to Haiti and a stint as a travel nurse, she discovered a different side of the field that spoke to her: healthcare informatics.

SIS hired Cordtz at the end of 2011. Now she travels with the anesthesia team – about half of which is comprised of medical professionals and the other half with technical backgrounds – to hospitals all over the country to implement SIS’s anesthesia software systems. With most hospitals charting and billing on paper, what Cordtz’s company offers is a revelation – even and a revolution – to many.

And as hospitals focus on areas to increase revenue and efficiency while decreasing costs, along with government incentives for hospitals that switch to electronic medical records, it’s also boom-time for companies like SIS. The job has proven Cordtz’s assertion: that nursing is infinite in its career possibilities.

Initially drawn to nursing after encouragement from her mother, who battled lymphoma, Cordtz chose the University of Virginia on a hunch. Day one of orientation, though, Cordtz knew she’d found the right place when she met Theresa Carroll, the School of Nursing’s much-beloved senior assistant dean of student services.

“At that point, it was a done deal – no more doubts,” says Cordtz, who calls her tenure at U.Va. the best four years of her life. “The School of Nursing was great. It became family. We were immediately part of the U.Va. tradition, and there’s a real credibility that comes with that, once you’re out of school.”

With a nursing background and a keen interest in technology, Cordtz has immediate buy-in from her clients – nurses, physicians and hospital administrators – because she “talks the talk.”

“Even just the vocabulary of health care providers, and the OR in particular, is so specific,” says Cordtz. “As a nurse, you’re instantly relate-able. I worked in the OR for years, and know what the end goal is, what their struggles are, what the overall workflow is. And I work with them to make the documentation easier so they can provide better patient care.”

And coming from U.Va., says Cordtz, is a remarkable calling card of its own.

 “I’m a younger face in the industry, and when you’re working with mature health care providers, it can be a barrier to get respect,” she notes. “But when you mention U.Va. the conversation shifts. You get a big smile. People know it, understand its value, respect it. That’s nice.”

 - Christine Phelan Kueter

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