Diesel mechanic turned ER nurse named Heart of Healthcare Award winner
A diving accident at age 16 left with a broken neck — and a glimpse of his future career.
During his month-long hospital stay, “I found myself watching the nurses go about their jobs and saying to myself, ‘That would be fun to do,’” says Geiger.
But the North Dakota native spent five years working as a diesel mechanic in the oil fields before deciding it was time for a change.
“I thought of my time in the hospital and how interested I was in the work the nurses did,” Geiger says. “So I sold my tools to pay my way through nursing school and I’ve never looked back.”
Geiger laughs when he remembers his first few classes at Neosho County Community College in Chanute, Kan.
“We were sitting in class, introducing ourselves and what we did for a living,” he says. “When it came to me, I said I was a diesel mechanic and everyone looked at me like I was kidding.”
After earning his associate degree in nursing, Geiger worked in intensive care; the cardiac electrophysiology lab; and medical, surgical and dialysis units at several Kansas hospitals before finally finding his niche: emergency medicine.
“In the ER, there are constant changes,” Geiger says. “I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and I have found that’s when I’m the happiest.”
Using Derby, Kan., as his home base, he spent four years as a traveling nurse, providing contract help in ERs in Florida, Montana, South Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
“Everywhere I went, the staff were always so grateful for the extra help,” says Geiger, who enjoyed getting to see the country and hunting in his free time.
When he heard about plans to open the new Via Christi Hospital on St. Teresa, he decided it was time to care for patients closer to home.
Geiger, known by co-workers for his dependable and easygoing nature, has been recognized twice for his compassion for patients and families and dedication to the nursing profession. Last year, he received a St. Catherine of Siena Award for personifying Via Christi’s Core Value of Human Dignity.
In addition, he was chosen by the University of Kansas School of Nursing as one of 10 Heart of Healthcare Award winners from a pool of 150 registered nurses statewide.
“I nominated Jeff because he is one of the most thoughtful, caring and truly dedicated nurses I have ever had the privilege of working with,” says Misty Falco, a risk manager for Via Christi. “He consistently puts the needs of his patients and co-workers first and treats every person he comes into contact with just as he would want to be treated.”
For example, after he learned about Don Schrader, a Via Christi nurse with terminal breast cancer, and how much he missed being able to ride his motorcycle, Geiger wanted to help.
Geiger, an avid biker himself, used vacation time to pick up Don at his rural Kansas home and take him for what would be his last ride.
“Jeff didn’t even know Don,” says Falco. “He is just so genuine, which is what makes him such a great person and nurse.”
It was no big deal, says Geiger.
“If I have the ability to ease someone’s pain and suffering, then I’ll bend over backward to do what I can for you.”