Group photo of nurses gathered around a table, one of whom is Megan Ludena, WSU Vancouver Notable Alumna 2017.
Megan Ludeña, shown in glasses at left, reviews a policy change with colleagues at Kaiser Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, Oregon. Photo by Jennifer Perez.

Reprinted with permission from Northwest Crimson & Gray, WSU Vancouver

Megan Ludeña considers it “a surprise and honor” to be chosen for WSU Vancouver’s 2017 Notable Alumni Award

The award is the latest in a string of accolades she has received in the last five years. As meaningful as these awards are to her, however, she said that “really, my biggest achievements have been caring for my mom at the end of her life, and raising my two girls.”

Caretaking is Ludeña’s life purpose. That is a major reason why she is increasingly recognized for the careful, conscientious work she does as a nurse and nurse educator. Currently she is a nurse educator with Kaiser Westside Medical Center. Although she sometimes fills in for clinical nurses attending to newborns or patients in early labor, she spends most of her time helping her fellow nurses to maintain their specialized skills and work at the top of their scope of practice.

“The majority of my time is spent on orientation and onboarding of new hires, reviewing and updating our policies and procedures, teaching some of Kaiser Northwest’s regional nursing classes, and planning and executing our staff education throughout the year,” Ludeña said. 

Achieving goals

She received a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2004 from Linfield College, and her master’s degree and a Nurse Educator Certificate in December 2013 from WSU Vancouver. She was chosen to carry the College of Nursing banner for WSU Vancouver’s 2014 commencement. She holds nursing licenses in both Oregon and Washington.

Initially, Ludeña planned to become a labor and delivery nurse. Upon receiving her bachelor’s degree, she worked in a medical-surgical unit at Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro for nine months before transferring to the Family Birth Center. She subsequently worked at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital and Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center, both in Portland, before joining her current employer, Kaiser Westside Medical Center, in 2015.

In 2007, with the encouragement of friends, she decided to pursue a master’s degree. “I am a self-proclaimed nerd,” she said. “I love learning and anticipate being a lifelong learner.”

Then, after taking a few years off to work and be a mom, she attended school part-time while working full-time for about four years. Because the program was a hybrid (online plus in person/videoconference), she was able to plan her work schedule around the dates she needed to be at school. For her final year, she was chosen to participate in a program through Kaiser Permanente that afforded her the opportunity to take one day off a week to focus on school, while still being paid her full wages.

She credits three of her WSU Vancouver professors – Dawn Doutrich, Lida Dekker and Linda Eddy – as “my top encouragers and supporters.”

Ludeña knew she wanted to teach, too, and has been able to do so in both clinical and classroom settings. In addition to her work with Kaiser, she has served as a preceptor to student nurses from University of Portland and Concordia University, and has taught at Linfield Good Samaritan School of Nursing in Portland. For the last two years, she has been a finalist in the Nurse Educator category for the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year award.

Making every day count

Ludeña lives in Vancouver with her husband, Joseph, daughters Ariana, 8, and Mikayla, 5, and their puppy, Oreo. Mikayla was born while Megan was finishing her master’s degree.

A couple of years after receiving her master’s degree, Ludeña began caring for her mother, who was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. “We spent the first six to  nine months after her diagnosis doing things that were really important to her,” Ludeña said, such as visits to California, Florida and the Oregon coast. Although her mother had proclaimed she wanted to go to a nursing
home when she could no longer take care of herself, Ludeña had other ideas.

“We were able to buy a house that suited her needs perfectly,” Ludeña said. She and her family gave her mother constant care and attention. Her mother died surrounded by family.

“Because of my experiences as a WSU Vancouver grad student and then as a result of my career path after graduation, I was able to become comfortable with death,” Ludeña said. “I was able to give her what she wanted and needed at the end of life. I was also able to expose my daughters to death and explain to them that, as hard as it is, it’s a normal part of life.”

To Ludeña, the Notable Alumni Award carries special significance. “I’m not the CEO of a startup company,” she said. “I didn’t invent anything really cool. I’m not volunteering in a third-world country. But my efforts to work hard and love hard have been noticed. This award says to me that everyday people doing everyday things do get noticed.”