Rae Simpson, BSN, MSN - Saint Martin's Alumna

inWords Archive


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Twins Kathleen and Jacqueline Byron ’92, engineer great lives…together.

Alumna Marisha Kasjan rings in 2015 with pizza and the power of a kindness.

Where students and faculty collaborate: Alumna Kim Menius teams up with Professor Robert Hauhart to take her revised senior thesis to publication.

For Tanzania's Doctor Sister Redemista Ngonyani, O.S.B. '04 education is key to being the change she wants to see in the world.

Christine Schaller '93, aiming high because of Saint Martin’s University.

Rae Simpson BSN '95, MSN '98, using her Saint Martin's education to see the bigger picture.

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2013 fall convocation Taking the road less traveled.

Rae Simpson, BSN '95, MSN '98, improves healthcare for the South Sound community

Rae Simpson is family. With two degrees from Saint Martin’s and three children currently enrolled as Saints, it’s understandable that she often speaks of “we” when discussing Saint Martin’s and the return of its nursing program.

Simpson has built a successful career in nursing leadership, and gives a great deal of the credit to her Saint Martin’s education. Since 2008 she has been the director of behavioral health for Providence Health & Services and St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. Her job is to find ways to improve patient care, especially in the areas of chemical dependency, sexual assault and psychiatric services. It’s a big challenge in the current economic climate. Grant money and public funding for mental health services have dried up, and Providence has had to close a number of clinics in smaller communities.

“Part of my job was to regroup and develop a plan to serve the mission on a budget,” Simpson explains. She welcomes the challenge of doing research and implementing evidence-based practices to make sure that what Providence/St. Peter is doing is working for its patients.

Simpson’s appreciation of her current employer is similar to her affinity for her alma mater.

“St. Peter Hospital is very much like Saint Martin’s,” she says. “They have similar missions and core values.” She speaks glowingly of the story of Mother Joseph, the revered nun who came to southwestern Washington in the middle of the 19th century and created much-needed health services to the region. That early work formed what eventually became the Providence Health System.

“I can’t walk in her shoes,” Simpson says of Mother Joseph, who is memorialized with a statue in the Capitol in Olympia, “but I want to continue to serve in that same capacity. What can I do to improve health care for our community?”

Just as she felt a member of a community at Saint Martin’s, she finds her co-workers at Providence to be supportive and caring.

“Sometimes it’s not the job you do, or where you work, it’s the people you work with that make it worthwhile,” Simpson says.

When Simpson and her husband, Guy, a teacher, moved to Lacey, she had been in the funeral business, but felt that was no longer for her. She decided to give nursing a try. She earned an associate’s degree in nursing at South Puget Sound Community College in 1994. Then, attracted by the one-to-one teaching — and some scholarship help — she came to Saint Martin’s to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1996, and then a master’s in 1998. At the time she wondered if the degrees and the credentials would be worth the time and effort, but decided it would be silly to pass up the opportunity. She hasn’t regretted it.

“Now when I look back on it, I’m so glad I took advantage of that situation,” Simpson says. “It has really helped me. My degrees from Saint Martin’s have allowed me to have better opportunities with every job I’ve had.” She admits to being biased, because she did it this way, but Simpson thinks that earning an associate’s degree first is a smart way to go.

“It really adds a whole new depth to your education,” she says. “I recommend it to people who want to be nurses. Get your two-year, get those skills under your belt, and then add your bachelor’s.”

The advanced degree then allows a nurse to step back, see the bigger picture and treat the holistic patient, according to Simpson. “It opens your eyes and ears to seeing more,” she says.

Given that advice, she’s delighted that the renewed nursing program at Saint Martin’s will be focused on bachelor’s degree completion for nurses who already have two-year degrees. She says students in the South Sound area will benefit from having a top-quality program closer to home. It’s especially touching for her as she was one of the last students to earn a Saint Martin’s nursing degree before the program closed 14 years ago.

“We called ourselves the ‘elite eight,’” she jokes of the small cohort of classmates in the leadership track of the master’s program in 1998.

Simpson has established herself as a visible advocate for nursing throughout the South Sound region. Since last year, when Saint Martin’s announced its plan to launch its RN-to-BSN program, she has offered much time, energy and support to the program. She is delighted with the choice of Louise Kaplan, Ph.D. to be the program director.

“Dr. Kaplan is amazing,” Simpson says. “It’s going to be a great program.”

Simpson’s other passion is theatre. She and her three children, Taylor, Katie and Guy III, all used to act at the Drew Harvey Theater in Yelm. The four of them would be on stage, while papa Guy II, worked behind the scenes. He may have had the best seat in the house.

“It’s one thing to watch a show,” Simpson says, “but boy, the stuff that goes on behind the stage is probably even a bigger show!”

Both of her passions have clearly taken hold on the kids. Taylor is a theatre arts major at Saint Martin’s and was in the department’s production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream this spring. Katie and Guy are considering health careers. Simpson says the kids appreciate the personal attention they receive in their classes, and she appreciates the University’s unwavering commitment to its core values.

“As much as it’s changed, in many ways it has stayed the same,” she says. “There’s something kind of special about that.”

“What a great experience. A Saint Martin’s education is priceless.”