Alumnus Kelly Pearce Finds Calling as a Nurse Through Extraordinary Care
This month’s alumni spotlight shines on Kelly Pearce, a 2000 graduate who earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Chamberlain when we were still known as the Deaconess College of Nursing.
Pearce’s efforts and accomplishments have landed him in the role of vice president of operations at SSM St. Clare Health Center, in St. Louis, Missouri since 2012.
An unexpected journey towards care
Pearce’s journey to become a nurse began in January of 1993 when he was a freshman in high school making plans for a career in the U.S. Air Force. He had just taken his first training flight to become a pilot when he received an unexpected diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
Pearce was admitted to the pediatric unit of a Peoria, Illinois hospital where he was to learn what diabetes is, how to give insulin injections, take blood glucose levels and all of the other things that go into living with a chronic disease. The last thing he expected to find at the hospital was an inspiration that would shape the rest of his life. That inspiration was Beverly (Bev) Grimes, RN.
Grimes was the diabetic nurse educator that not only walked him through all of the technical aspects of caring for diabetes; she also made an emotional connection with Pearce . Grimes identified in their first interactions that Pearce was a Chicago Cubs baseball fan. She, on the other hand, was a St. Louis Cardinals fan.
While this may seem simple, it served as a common ground between the two. And in Pearce’s eyes, it was key in building trust, credibility and a connection between nurse and patient.
Upon discharge from the hospital, Pearce recalls having a conversation with his parents as they were leaving the parking garage about the impact of diabetes on his future. “I told them that I knew that I couldn’t have a career in the Air Force because of diabetes, but I knew that I wanted to become a pediatric nurse instead so that I could help kids like Bev does.” From that point onward, Pearce worked with his high school counselor to prepare for what it would take to get into nursing school.
Attracted by the rich history of the then Chamberlain College of Nursing and the St. Louis community, Pearce began his freshman year in 1996. He quickly became involved in life on campus participating as President of the Student Government Association for three years, Vice President of the Chamberlain College of Nursing Chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) for one year and Vice President of the Missouri Chapter of the NSNA for one year.
In 2000, Pearce graduated with honors from Chamberlain, receiving his bachelor’s of science in nursing.
After working as both a pediatric and adult critical care nurse and, he began studies at the University of Missouri, Columbia to obtain his master’s degree in health administration. Upon completion of that degree in 2005, Pearce managed the critical care units at Des Peres Hospital before becoming administrative director, nursing operations at SSM St. Clare Health Center in 2009.
In 2012, Pearce was named vice president of operations at St. Clare and was recognized with an Excellence in Nursing Award by St. Louis Magazine in the category of Management/Nurse Executive/Clinical Leader.
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