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Waubonsee Names Nurse/Educator Featured Alumna

A woman in nursing scrubs stands under the bright lights of an operating room.
Jodie Beverage, of Sandwich, has been named Waubonsee Community College’s Featured Alumna for January. A registered nurse, Beverage works as the perioperative educator at Rush-Copley Medical Center.

If you’ve had surgery at Rush-Copley Medical Center in the past 12 years, you’ve felt the impact of Jodie Beverage. Even if this Sandwich resident did not scrub in for your particular procedure, she most likely had a hand in training the people who were in that room. For her dedication to quality health care and the power of education, Waubonsee Community College has named Beverage its featured alumna for January.

Becoming a nurse and educator did not seem a likely path for Beverage when she was a teenager. She had dropped out of high school and was working in a factory, but she quickly realized the only way to a better career was through education and so enrolled in GED preparation courses through Waubonsee.

“My GED instructor was Bill Thomas; I still remember his name,” Beverage said. “He noticed that I was always helping other students, and so he recruited me to come back and volunteer with the program after I had earned my GED. He saw potential in me.”

That potential to become an effective educator was confirmed by a career assessment Beverage took at Waubonsee’s counseling department after her first semester of general education courses. The test indicated she was best suited for a career as a teacher or as a nurse.

“I’d had teaching experience, but I hadn’t ever thought about nursing,” Beverage said. “But the job outlook was good at the time, and I qualified for grant money, so I started taking the prerequisites for the program.”

Beverage tackled challenging courses like Anatomy and Physiology, all while working full-time at the factory. Her daughter, who was about 9-years-old at the time, was recruited to help her mom study.

“I’d highlight my notes and tell her to say everything in pink while mom would answer with what was in yellow,” Beverage recalls.

Every eight-week nursing course brought new challenges, but it wasn’t until the end of the program that Beverage’s career path was confirmed.

“We had one day of observation in the operating room (OR), and I was hooked,” Beverage said. “I was so excited my skin was tingling.”

After a few routine procedures, a patient was brought in who needed  emergency open heart surgery. Beverage begged her instructor for the chance to observe, and she wound up at the head of the bed.

“It was orchestrated chaos,” Beverage said. “I was so struck by the human component, of what we could do for this patient — stop the heart, fix the vessels, get it beating again. And then to see the patient sitting up in bed the next day — I wanted to be a part of that.”

Beverage earned her Associate in Applied Science Degree in Nursing from Waubonsee in 1996 and set out on her journey to become an OR nurse. She first took a few part-time jobs, including one on the medical/surgical floor at Provena Mercy Medical Center, before working for three years in the orthopaedics department at Dreyer Medical Clinic. But when she attended an employment open house at Rush-Copley and found out their surgical department was hiring, Beverage knew she had to take the opportunity.

Since the OR is a specialty not taught in nursing school, Beverage was trained by Rush-Copley’s perioperative educator. She was a fast learner, and just a year-and-a-half later, was a member of the hospital’s open heart surgery team.

Beverage had attained her dream job, and it suited her. In 2002, she was named Staff Nurse of the Year by Nursing Spectrum magazine. To further validate her skills, she earned her certified nurse of the operating room (CNOR) credential in 2004.

While she was finding success, Beverage remained open to opportunities for bettering herself, and so when the chance to enroll in a cohort program and earn a bachelor’s degree from Aurora University (AU) came along, she took it. That decision turned out to be a lucky one for all the children who have to go through surgery at Rush-Copley each year.

While in the cohort program, one of Beverage’s homework assignments was to identify a gap in the surgery department and help fill it. She recognized the need to better prepare children who were facing surgery and the result was Kids Introduction to Day Surgery (KIDS), a program that continues to run at Rush-Copley.

“The children and their families are able to meet people and see the equipment that will be used, so that helps alleviate a lot of the anxiety they’re all feeling,” Beverage said.

With her bachelor’s degree now in hand, Beverage went from teaching children about surgery to teaching hospital staff the processes and procedures of the OR as she was hired as Rush-Copley’s perioperative educator. In this role, she coordinates and/or conducts the training for all staff who observe, complete rotations in and/or work in the areas of the OR, recovery, day surgery and the pain clinic. Beverage covers everything from scrubbing in, gowning and gloving up, handling and counting sterile supplies, draping and prepping patients, and much more.

“Teaching gives me a great sense of accomplishment,” Beverage said. “It’s wonderful to see how people can progress in their knowledge.”

Beverage has continued to progress in her knowledge, earning a master’s degree in nursing education from Lewis University in 2009. This degree helped her secure a position as an adjunct faculty member for Waubonsee’s surgical technology program.

“I know what it’s like for these students,” Beverage said. “I remember taking night courses around my work schedule. I remember that the best teachers were the ones with real-life experiences and full-time jobs in the industry. Waubonsee started things for me, and now I’m paying it back.”