Nurse chosen one of state’s best

Passion for care began with bandages on imaginary injuries of family pets

Jane Foster needed some good news.

In August, her annual mammogram showed a white spot on her chest wall that turned out to be early-stage cancer. After a painful round of radiation therapy, Foster, 55, was cancer-free. Two weeks after the treatment, her ex-husband, local dentist Terry Fine, was shot dead in his driveway.

Shortly after those events, Foster learned she had been nominated for a Nightingale Award for Excellence in Human Care. The award honors the best of Colorado’s 55,000 registered nurses.

Fifteen of the 255 nominated nurses became finalists for the award, and the six recipients were announced at a ceremony May 9 in Denver. Foster learned at the ceremony she was one of those six award winners. She took home a bronze statue of Florence Nightingale holding a patient.

“It’s really sort of humbling, because nurses don’t win awards,” Foster said. “We don’t go out seeking attention. That’s the nature of our profession.”

The award provided a high point in Foster’s life after tragedy.

“It was so wonderful to have something nice happen after a very hard time,” she said.

Foster’s passion for nursing goes back to her first memory. Her dog gave birth and proved to be “a terrible mother.” So Foster, a preschooler at the time, fed the puppies with an eye dropper and even bandaged their legs to heal pretend injuries.

At 14, she became a candy striper at St. Mary’s Hospital. She earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a master’s in health administration from CU-Denver. Her first official nursing job was in Ohio.

Then she moved to England and volunteered with the Red Cross. She started two programs there: one to teach the wives of American GIs how British obstetrics differed from techniques used in the United States, and a program that sent Red Cross volunteers to military wives’ homes after they gave birth.

Foster returned to her native Grand Junction in 1981. She spent about 20 years working as a nurse and then director of women and children’s health program at St. Mary’s Hospital. She worked with C.C. Huffnagle to create the St. Mary’s Women’s Health Pavilion. Foster’s leadership style inspired Huffnagle.

“If you want a task done, you give it to Jane, and she’ll get it done,” Huffnagle said.

“She’s amazing. She’s always a visionary. She’s always on the cutting edge.”

From breast-feeding programs to organizing committees, program development and community education became Foster’s passions. That love transferred into her next job at the Western Colorado Area Health Education Center. She offered refresher nursing education courses and served as a liaison to Mesa State College.

Four years ago she was recruited for her current job as clinical director for Quality Health Network. The company binds test results and patient information into one document that doctors can view 24 hours a day by logging on to QHN’s data feed.

Foster’s co-workers at QHN nominated her for the Nightingale Award, and a handful of former colleagues, including Huffnagle, sent letters of support after she became a finalist.

“Her endurance is unbelievable. Every time she’d be at the bottom of the pit she’d say,

‘I’ll get through this,’ and she would,” Huffnagle said.

QHN Executive Director and CEO Dick Thompson wrote in his nomination letter that Foster continued to lead and nurse her friends and family, including sons Brad, 30, and Jeff, 28, after their father’s death. Nursing comes naturally to Foster, in the worst and best of times.

“No one gets through life without skinning their knees,” Foster said. “That’s the human condition, to stretch and heal and move on.”


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