Two things you need to know about Tracy Cagan right off the bat:
- She’s our Respiratory Care Program Director at our Carrington College Mesa campus.
- She’s a self proclaimed ‘Disneyholic’!
I spoke with Tracy to explore more about both of these topics and more…
So before we get started, a ‘Disneyholic’, tell me more about that Tracy?
“There is truly no happier place on earth than Disneyland. I’m a single mother of a 10 year old boy, Jacob, and we both LOVE Disneyland. My son and I have annual passes; we try to go six or seven times a year – every other month or so, except for summer because it’s too hot.
I really enjoy the rides, and I love pin trading! You know the lapel pins that people put on their lanyards? Well you can find every Disney character in any kind of pose as a lapel pin. So we buy a large number of pins on eBay before we go, then we trade with the cast members at Disneyland for the pins we want. I collect the Tinkerbells and Mickey Mouses – it’s pretty cool! I really love Disney!”
Who doesn’t? So tell us Tracy, how long have you been with Carrington College?
“It’s been a little over seven years. I started in 2006 as a Respiratory Care instructor at the Phoenix Westside campus; I got the Program Director job here at the Mesa campus in March 2010.”
And how long have you been in the Respiratory Care field?
“Fifteen years. The first seven years I worked as a Respiratory Therapist at a hospital in Scottsdale. I did different things there; I was a Staff Therapist, a Supervisor, an ICU Lead Therapist. I was also a Clinical Educator there for a short time. After that I spent a year as the Director of a department in a long-term care facility before I came to this school.”
What were your ambitions after high school?
“My goal when I first got out of high school was to go to nursing school. I knew I wanted to do something medical, and nursing is what popped into my mind. I went to a Junior College to do my General Ed classes, but back then there were long waiting lists for all the nursing programs and I got sidetracked.”
You were 27 when you first entered the field, so I guess you did get sidetracked, what did you do?
“I was in the banking industry, working for Wells Fargo bank. My mom found me the banking job actually; she saw they were looking for a Teller. I worked my way up to Assistant Branch Manager. I guess I kind of just fell into banking, always knowing that health care was where I wanted to eventually be.”
So when did you do get your first respiratory qualification?
“I started respiratory school in Mesa in 1997; I left with an Associate of Science in Respiratory Care. I then went on to get my bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Care at an online health sciences college in ’09. I finished my master’s degree in Human Resource Management just a couple of weeks ago.”
Congratulations! So what made you give up your job and become an educator?
“When I was in respiratory school in ’97 I had an instructor that I just thought the world of. I knew that someday I would get myself into education because I wanted to give to other people what she had given to me. So education was always something in the back of my mind. And as I said, when I was working at the hospital, I had the clinical education spot for a while. When I was at the long-term care facility, I had students from Carrington come in for their externships, and every week their instructor would come in and say “So are you ready to come work for us yet? And one day I said “Yeah, let’s do it.”
No regrets about leaving patient care for a career in education?
“None at all. I really love my job! And I loved patient care, I really did. Sometimes I miss the hustle and bustle of the ER and taking care of trauma patients. But there is nothing better than being in a classroom with a group of students who, when they walk in, know nothing about respiratory but when they leave, they can talk to you like they’ve been doing it forever. Without a doubt that’s the most rewarding part of the job.”
Talk to me a little more about that – what makes it so rewarding for you?
“To be help get our students through, to help them overcome difficulties they face, and help them earn their credentials is just amazing. One of the biggest things for me, especially when I spent more time in the classroom, was that I was able to get students to want to do well, not only for themselves, but for me too. That’s a really good feeling. Several years ago, we had a new instructor I was precepting; she said to me – ‘I want my students to be with me, like yours are with you.’ That was a great feeling.”
As Program Director, are you still able to get in the classroom and teach?
“Oh yes. In their final semester, semester six, the students are out in clinicals for three days a week but they come into campus one day a week; that’s the class that I teach. And once a month I sit down with all the students in the program – I call it the ‘Respiratory Rally’ – and ask them how it’s going, if they have anything to talk to me about, and what’s going on in their world. It’s just me and the students.”
We always encourage Carrington College students to have a career plan, what’s yours?
“I really, really love my job. The reason I did a Human Resource Management degree for my master’s is that I feel like it’s a good back-up plan. I have no plans to leave here, but if I ever do, I don’t want to go backwards. If something were to happen, I figured HR would keep me at a management level. I’m in a management position as it is, so to do more courses in management just made sense.”
You’ve already mentioned your son, Jacob, so tell us a little more about yourself at home…
“I was born in Yonkers, NY, but we moved to Scottsdale, AZ, when I was aged 2. I’ve been here for a very long time. I have four cats – Kaptain Kat, Major Meyow, Sonny and Cher – and one dog, Gogala. I think cats are the best animal on earth! The poor dog is so out-numbered; she and I are the only girls in the house.”
In addition to being a ‘Disneyholic’, please share another interesting fact that your students won’t know.
“They probably wouldn’t guess that I owned a Karaoke business for about ten years. It was a part-time thing I did when I was in banking. Banking by day, Karaoke singer by night I guess!”
Thanks so much for your time Tracy, but we’ve come to my final question. If you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island, who would you want with you? And what movie, book and music would you take?
Companion – “Obviously my son Jacob, I couldn’t imagine ever being without him. Let me think – I don’t think I could be out there with anyone like Jim Carrey because he would drive me insane after a while. Maybe Tom Hanks? He would be good. He certainly seemed to do great on a desert island in Castaway!”
Movie – “I really like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or maybe ‘Forrest Gump’, that’s such a great movie. Tom could talk me through it.”
Book – “I would bring ‘The Door to December’ by Dean Koontz.”
Music – “I would bring some 70s light rock – REO Speedwagon, Air Supply or something like that.”
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