This article can be found in the Alumni Magazine.

November 23, 2022

Tracie Jones (BSN ’11) continues to receive text messages and social media notifications about being the face of the University of Saint Francis nursing program on billboards around Fort Wayne. She hasn’t aged much since those billboards debuted—her kids delight in saying, “It’s you, Mom!”—and she still enjoys her friends’ comments.

But there’s something she relishes even more than her relative fame—being an encouragement to others.

“We need minority representation in healthcare,” Jones said. “I have had people see that and ask me, ‘What program do you think would be good for me?’ When we have diverse providers, we have better outcomes with patients. They are less anxious and more open. That’s how we were able to achieve high outcomes at the Jane Pauley Community Health Center, working with the underserved.”

Jones, now living in Indianapolis, is married to entrepreneur Perry Pickens, has a full house with three children (Kailah, 13, Layla, 10 and Zayden, 2), works as a nurse practitioner through NC Elder Care and is pursuing a Doctor of Nursing in Advanced Practice Nursing and a Master of Business in Healthcare Administration. If it sounds like she has a busy life, she does. But Jones has been a go-getter since her days at Snider High School and her undergraduate years at USF. She believes in lifelong learning and using her gifts to help others professionally and personally.

“I’ve worked in many different settings,” Jones said. “I’ve been a PACU (post anesthesia care unit) registered nurse, worked in med-surg, dialysis, renal transplantation, and now I’ve been a nurse practitioner for six years, working with the underserved and geriatric populations. At the beginning of my nursing career, I was deeply involved in underserved communities and that’s where I was able to be the change I wanted to see— improving those outcomes.”

Jones made a significant impact in her nearly four years at the Jane Pauley Community Health Center, increasing positive outcomes and community reach at three Indianapolis locations. Unfortunately, her last location with the center closed after being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She switched her focus, working for Strive Health as a lead nurse practitioner. Earlier this year, she began working with NC Elder Care. Jones is on call from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. weekdays, advising nurses in assisted-living and long-term care facilities in Indiana and North Carolina. She adds to her experience by also being a travel nurse.

Caring for others is part of Jones’ nature, which was nurtured during her time at USF. She had originally planned on pharmacy school, but after she and her mother talked with USF professor Dave Johnson, in his role as a Parkview counselor, she chose USF’s nursing program instead.

“Thankfully, I had that connection and the guidance of Dave Johnson to get to that step,” she said. “I am very thankful for the foundation I had at Saint Francis and the Franciscan values. Saint Francis allowed me to look into those characteristics of Christ and how we should be exhibiting those behaviors, not only in our professional life, but personally.”

A great example of the importance of service came during the pandemic, when Jones and her husband spent a portion of each Saturday taking sandwiches to the homeless community in Indianapolis. She made sure her children accompanied them. “It is important for me to show my kids how to give back,” she said. “Any time we do a health fair or are giving time or observing something like that, I do the same thing my mom did with me, taking my children with me. It’s important that they see that connection.”

Jones believes people should continue to stretch themselves throughout their lives. She said she reached a point where her professional career was busy, but somewhat stagnant, and she pushed herself into exploring new areas of entrepreneurship and providing healthcare.

“I’m still working on defining what success looks like, having more work-life balance, more flexibility and mobility,” she said, “and staying focused on what’s important and the impact I make.

“My story may have looked a lot different without the support and resources from my mom, Terri Farr, my family, Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Dr. Alan McGee, African American Healthcare Alliance, my coach Debra Williams (former Parkview Health Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer), Dr. Dave Johnson, Dr. Megan Winegarden, the University of Saint Francis faculty and the Fort Wayne community. I thank them all!”