Helping Nurses, Neighbors, and People Around the World
Nurse Nancy, Non-stop Nancy, Nancy-with-a-plan—these are just a few of the epithets you could give Nancy Kraus (AA ’80, BS ’82), an unstoppable, caring, and dedicated BYU alum. From next door-nursing to overseas travel, Kraus is always ready and willing to help.
Though she is officially employed at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), Kraus is also the neighborhood nurse, coming to the rescue when panicked parents call about their ailing kids. (She’s even been called about her own kids while they were out playing with neighbors!) The severity of these ailments have varied. “I do get called for all sorts of neighborhood things . . .” Kraus shares. “[A] friend of mine whose son went through brain cancer, he would have seizures and stuff like that, but she would call me before she called 911 because she knew I could get over there faster. And I'm like, ‘You need to call 911 first . . . That is not the way this needs to go down. I will still come, but get 911 going.’"
When not taking care of neighbors, Kraus has three executive positions at CHOC: Executive Director of Critical Care, Executive Director of Clinical Education, and the Magnet Program Director. “My scope is pretty large right now,” she says, “It's a little crazy.” During her career, Kraus has seen many changes in nursing. For instance, there has been a considerable shift in power. “[Before,] nurses stood up for doctors to give them the chair,” she says. “Now, nurses are having collaborative conversations about what's best for the patient.” This shared governance is obvious in Kraus’s many high-level positions at CHOC. Her personal attitude of taking responsibility has also contributed to her success. Kraus says, “Realize that it's not always somebody else's job to fix a problem, that you need to own the problem and fix it.”
In addition to her myriad responsibilities at CHOC and a part-time teaching position at West Coast University, Kraus also goes on two global medical missions a year (usually to Africa or South America) with Operation Smile. Kraus loves taking a break from the chaos of everyday life to focus on giving and healing. Although it’s difficult to treat the people and then never see them again, Kraus says it’s worth it, knowing that the people she helps are receiving care they couldn’t get anywhere else. For example, Kraus once helped care for a little girl in who had been internally displaced for many years in Kenya. The girl had been severely burned in a tent fire that killed her younger sister. That particular mission was not a burn mission, but after hearing that the girl had no access to health care anywhere else, Kraus and her team decided to give her a start with some surgeries that they were equipped to do. Kraus said, “We went out of our box to do it, but everybody agreed it was the right thing to do.” Because burns and other facial deformations cause some people to be shunned and isolated, operations like this and others give people a chance to interact socially, to go to school, and to eat properly—to start a new life.
If anyone knows about starting a new life, it’s Kraus. After becoming friends with Latter-day Saint kids during her senior year of high school in Southern California, Kraus decided to be baptized. At that point, it was too late to apply for BYU for fall semester, but Kraus had a plan. After a semester of university in sunny Arizona, she transferred to wintry Utah to join the highly competitive BYU nursing program, where she thrived. After graduation she began working at CHOC. Five years later, she got married and started a family. Although she took an eight-year hiatus from nursing to take care of her four children, she used that time to open and run a scrapbooking and paper-crafting business.
A schedule this full require lots of effort and planning, even to relax. “We have a second home in Heber,” says Kraus. “I love getting up to Utah and just living the small-town life for various weekends.” A true blue Cougar, Kraus also makes time to cheer on her alma mater. “I'm a huge BYU football fan,” she says, “so I have season tickets and typically come up for probably five of the games in Provo.” She also enjoys visiting her four children in their homes, scrapbooking, paper-crafting, exercising, and a yearly trip to Hawaii.