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Changing lives in the operating room and beyond: Kee's story

Kee is in full scrubs placing instruments in an operating room.

Finding the next growth opportunity at Duke Health

As a new graduate nurse, Kee Johnson knew she wanted to help save lives in the operating room, and she knew she’d need additional training to get there. The specialized skills it takes to work in this busy, high-stakes, high technology environment aren’t always taught in nursing school; they’re often learned by observing on the job under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

And that’s just what’s offered by Duke’s New to the OR Training Program, one of many career development programs available to nurses at Duke Health.

Duke’s program was exactly right for Kee, who joined us in 2020 after graduating from Delaware Technical Community College and passing the NCLEX exam.

“The program really prepared me for the daily routine of the OR,” said Kee, an operating room nurse at Duke Raleigh Hospital, a campus of Duke University Hospital. “It starts with the basics and then each week you learn more skills until you can run a room efficiently and independently.”

The program lasts six to nine months, depending on the specialty. While enrolled, Kee was promoted to Clinical Nurse II and began her journey as an operating room nurse in the General Surgery service line.

Kee’s not stopping her professional pursuits at Duke Health. She’s just finished using our tuition assistance program to pursue her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Barton College, graduating in May 2024. This is all while working her way up the nursing career ladder (she’s now a Clinical Nurse III at Duke Raleigh Hospital, a campus of Duke University Hospital). She’s taken on leadership roles as well, becoming a Preference Card Champion and running the evening and overnight shifts as a Charge Nurse. And, to pay it forward and help others grow she gives the gift of knowledge (to others who are new to Duke Health as a preceptor.

Kee smiles in a scrub hat and blue scrubs.

I've chosen to stay at Duke because I fell in love with this job and this place. Duke's fed into me and there's nowhere else I want to grow my career. Every day I come to work is a day to make another person's life easier by putting them on the road to recovery, and I find immense joy in that."

Kee Johnson, RN

Clinical Nurse IIIWith Duke since 2020

Giving back to her community

Kee says her experience at Duke has been “nothing short of great,” noting the many ways Duke Health has invested in her career and life. She cites the chance to mentor and train new nursing students, the chance to be an active learner without the burden of student loans, and a highly supportive management team with her decision to continue to grow with us.

“From day one I have been supported at every step along the way,” she said. “Working at Duke has provided me with endless opportunities, some of which I may not have been able to experience working somewhere else. I owe so much to my preceptors, managers, and the surgeons because they see my potential and push me to be a better nurse and take on more responsibilities.”

By choosing to start her career at Duke Health, and to grow with us, Kee can now confidently say she knows her way around any operating room and is sharing her love of learning and the operating room nurse profession with others.

“Ultimately, I hope to impact the specialty of OR Nursing by amping up interest and recruiting more nurses to the field,” she said. “And I hope to make an impact in the Raleigh community by ensuring patients receive exemplary care from the nurses I have trained. “

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