Playing tennis led Tracey Stribling down a renewed career path

Published 6:23 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2018

When Tracey Stribling was playing tennis with some of her teammates, she didn’t know it would lead to a revitalization in her nursing career. Having graduated from LaGrange College as a recipient of the George E. Sims, Jr. Nursing Scholarship, she had a nursing job lined up at WellStar West Georgia Medical Center. After 32 years, she retired as an operating room nurse.

After retirement, Stribling spent most of her days with family, including her new granddaughter. She also worked in her garden, read books on rainy days, traveled and enjoyed church activities with her husband. Even with a full schedule, she felt something was missing. She thought about the time when her children were in school and she would volunteer and then it came to her — she would volunteer at one of the elementary schools.

Stribling said when she mentioned the idea of volunteering at the schools to some of her tennis teammates, they encouraged her to go in another familiar direction.

“Some of the players on my tennis team are school system employees. I mentioned to them that I was interested in volunteering at one of the schools, and they encouraged me to apply for a school nurse position,” Stribling said.

That was more than two years ago.

Now, the avid tennis player spends her days between Rosemont Elementary School and Troup High School, continuing her nursing career but in the school setting.

“When I was hired, I knew I would be serving students at both schools,” Stribling said.

“I felt like I would just fall in love with the younger ones and be a little tentative about the high school students because of what I heard in the community about gangs and attitudes, but it was nothing like that. The older ones quickly captured my heart and I love it.”

She was surprised to learn her name was submitted by a group of peers as Nurse of the Year for Troup County School System.

“There are so many deserving professionals that I work with,” Stribling said. “I was honored to learn that I was chosen. I do my best to represent our profession, be a mentor and provide a listening ear,” she stated.

While school nursing is a different pace than her previous experience in the OR, she says being around children all day will make anyone’s heart grow by leaps and bounds.

“If you are a school nurse at an elementary school, all the students know you,” she said. “When you see some of your students out, they speak to you. You feel the love. I learned that, strangely enough, the size of the student doesn’t matter. There isn’t much difference between the younger ones and the older ones. They all want to talk. They all want to be loved. They all want someone who will listen.”

Stribling said with the increase in social media and cyberbullying, she has to keep her eyes open because students are easily influenced and hurt by things they see online.

“I see an increase in anxiety — especially when it is something negative about them,” she said. “As a district, we have a focus on educating employees at all levels about suicide prevention and how to handle those ideations that students may present. We want to make a difference before it gets to the point of ideation or the actual act. We are geared towards recognizing the signs and intervening.”

With three children who graduated from TCSS schools she says, “One of the things I have learned since I have been in this position is that we are all a big family — the bus drivers, paraprofessionals, nutrition workers, teachers … all of us — we go the extra mile. We provide different services to everybody’s child in Troup County so they can have a successful day.”

When she mentors young adults about the profession she points out the different avenues one can take as a nurse.

“Nursing is a career path that has so much potential. You can write your own ticket. There are opportunities for mission trips, riding around in helicopters, and seeing the world. It’s not all about the money — even though it is a lucrative career — it’s also about choosing a path that you can enjoy, that you can feel good about, and that you can be passionate about,” Stribling said.

“If all you’re doing is working for money, then it’s just work.”

As for her days in retirement and when she plans to move out of the work world, she says, “I like having a place to go and things to do. I like feeling that I make a difference somehow. For me and my heart to be truly happy, I have to feel like I am contributing. And that’s what I am doing here in Troup County School System — contributing.”