Published on October 16, 2018

She Found Her Place in Nursing 

Photo of Michaela Tracy and Leslie Peterson, MidMichigan Health's nurse residency program.

Michaela Tracy, B.S.N., R.N., is thriving in the Nursing Residency Program at MidMichigan Health, gaining hands-on experience working alongside her preceptor, Leslie Peterson, B.S.N., R.N.

For a long time, Michaela Tracey, B.S.N., R.N., knew she was destined for a career in nursing. Even as a little kid, growing up in Alpena, she wanted to be a nurse. On top of her enthusiasm for fishing, hunting, backpacking and other outdoor activities, nursing remained a strong interest of hers over the years. Her choice was solidified in high school when she took a health care occupation course and got to job shadow professional nurses in the field. This was definitely the job for her.

In 2011 Tracey graduated from high school, then went on to nursing school at Davenport University. As she neared graduation this past spring, she began considering options for a residency. She had heard of residency programs offered at larger medical centers in the country but, having strong ties to home, she was hesitant to move far away to attend one. So, when Tracey heard of a nursing residency program right in the middle of Michigan, not too far from where she grew up, she became excited.

Now, Tracey is three months into the six-month Nursing Residency Program at MidMichigan Health. Her placement is in the Emergency Department at MidMichigan Medical Center – Mt. Pleasant. “The biggest draw is having someone to work with,” Tracey said. There, she has been training under the supervision of her preceptor, another nurse who is acting as her instructor, mentor and guide. During her time there, she has become intimately familiar with the workings of the Emergency Department and what life as a nurse there is like.

In nursing school, Tracey said, you do a few different rotations and get a small idea of what each of the departments are like. The same goes for other residency programs, which last a mere six weeks. At MidMichigan’s program, however, residents have a much longer amount of time to become familiar with their unit, and to develop an understanding of what it actually means to work there. For a while, Tracey has thought that an ER setting might be where she would like to end up, and her experience in Mt. Pleasant has confirmed this. “I love it,” she said.

An integral part of Tracey’s experience has been her preceptor, Leslie Peterson, B.S.N., R.N. According to Tracey, Peterson is super knowledgeable and very education-oriented. She has been eager to share her knowledge of emergency care with Tracey and has been keen to ensure she experiences as many situations and learning opportunities as she can. “She’s a great resource,” Tracey said. When a unique case or any other interesting situation arises, “She makes sure I’m in the room to see it.”

For the first three to four weeks, or about 12 shifts, Tracey’s preceptor worked alongside her for everything she did. At first, Tracey mostly observed, going over charts and visiting patients with Peterson. Over time, however, she slowly got to handle more and more tasks and responsibilities on her own. “She slowly pushed me out of the nest,” Tracey said.

Today, Peterson steps back to allow Tracey to provide patient care more independently. Peterson is still there to answer any questions or address any concerns Tracey has, and still keeps tabs on her activities and offers reminders to her.

“If she notices I’ve left something off a chart, for example, she’ll ask me, ‘Hey, are you forgetting something?’” Tracey said.

In addition to the hands-on experience on the patient floor, residents in the program also attend classes every couple of weeks to develop skills and learn more advanced techniques, such as operating an EKG machine. Upon completing these courses, residents earn various certifications that will be useful in their careers down the road. The instructors in the Education Department at MidMichigan make themselves available to residents outside of the class as well. “You can make an appointment to go over things when you’re not understanding something,” Tracey said.

Tracey finds these courses helpful as they give her a better understanding of how things in the health care field work. She finds the classes more relaxed than at school; there are still exams, but not homework-based grading. However, it takes a lot more personal ambition or drive to be successful because of this individual responsibility. The classes are also directly relevant to the residents’ careers, Tracey believes. “I really enjoy it,” she said.

The support network that comes with the program is also excellent, Tracey said. In addition to her preceptor and the course instructors, the residents have the program managers and each other to turn to for additional help. Tara Neeb, D.N.P, R.N., C.N.E., clinical education nurse specialist, and Rachel Peltier, B.S.N., R.N., clinical education manager, are always available to answer questions and address concerns that residents have. Once a month, all of the residents in the program get together for a meeting with each other and the managers to discuss the things they have learned and what they could improve on. “Everybody is helpful and friendly,” Tracey said.

The program was also accommodating for the residents in finding placements for them,” Tracey said. During the interview process, each applicant was asked what department they would prefer training in, such as the ICU or ER. The administrators also took into account where they lived. Though it may not always be possible to go to your first choice, Tracey said, “I don’t think anybody was unhappy with their placement.”

One great aspect of having a longer-lasting program, Tracey said, is that residents get the full amount of practical experience while still getting to complete the certification courses. They come away with some excellent technical skills but are not missing out on any shifts on the floor. “During a day at work, it feels like I’m doing my job, not like school,” she said.

Upon completion of the program, residents are guaranteed a position in the MidMichigan Health system. Tracey has already accepted a verbal offer to stay on in the Emergency Department in Mt. Pleasant. She says she is excited at this prospect. She had a little bit of nerves at the start, but now she feels much more comfortable at the idea of a nursing job than before. Plus, her time there has allowed her to get acquainted with the other staff members in the ER. “If I have questions, I’ll ask,” she said.

Those who would like to learn more about MidMichigan Health’s nurse residency program, including requirements and how to apply, may visit

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