A Lifelong Passion for Nursing

Jeanine Spain’s dedication to improving people’s lives has led her up the ranks of leadership.

by Jaymee Barra, UnityPoint Health – Central Illinois
Jeanine Spain, UnityPoint Health – Central Illinois

At left: Jeanine Spain, UnityPoint Health – Central Illinois

One Peoria native got the itch to become a nurse at just seven years old, when she was visiting her grandfather in the hospital. A high school guidance counselor helped guide her toward a career in healthcare. And since getting her start as a nursing assistant while still in high school, she’s dedicated her life to the health and safety of central Illinoisans.

“I remember what my grandmother said when I told her I wanted to be a nurse,” she recalls. “‘Never forget you will be caring for people who are fragile and vulnerable and will depend on you to do everything for them.’ I did not really understand what she meant until I became a nurse, but I learned very quickly what an honor it is to care for patients.”

Dedication to Healthcare
In 2012, Jeanine Spain was named chief nursing officer for UnityPoint Health – Central Illinois, and seven years later added chief operating officer to her title—both roles she couldn’t have imagined when she began her healthcare career in 1976. 

“One of the great things about the nursing profession is the flexibility and the huge array of options it provides in the lifespan of a nurse,” Spain says. “I like to ‘respectively disrupt,’ and I think that has assisted me in taking on different leadership roles.” 

Spain started as a registered nurse in the medical intensive care unit at Methodist Medical Center. She first ascended into leadership and administrative roles in 1982 as the MICU assistant clinical coordinator, and rose into her first senior leadership role as vice president of cardiovascular services in 2006. In addition to her newest role as COO, Spain continues to serve as chief nursing officer as well as Methodist hospital administrator. She oversees UnityPoint Health’s excellence in nursing practices and policies for all three area hospitals. 

“Jeanine’s determination has empowered our teams to deliver quality care and improve the experience of our patients,” notes Dr. Keith Knepp, CEO of UnityPoint Health – Central Illinois. “She’s passionate about recognizing exceptional staff and inspiring a new generation of nurses and leaders.” 

One fellow nurse she’s inspired is Jeanette Murray, vice president of hospital operations for UnityPoint Health. Jeanine hired her more than a decade ago, and the two have worked closely together ever since. “We truly clicked during my interview and I knew then that I had to work for her,” Murray recalls. “I have never worked with someone with her dedication and continual commitment to improving patient outcomes and her heartfelt passion for nursing.”

Importance of Community
Spain’s dedication to the central Illinois community doesn’t stop when she leaves the hospital. A lifelong Peoria resident and the wife of a small business owner, she and her family know the importance of investing in our region. She serves on boards at Methodist College, Peoria Hospitals Mobile Medical Services, and the Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria. She is an active supporter of the Heart of Illinois United Way and the Center for Prevention of Abuse.

“Communities are the foundations that contribute to the whole of families,” she explains. “Community involvement builds relationships, exposes you to learning new things, and helps you feel part of something greater.”

And while the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on the importance of healthcare workers, Spain says the community’s response has made her proud to be a central Illinoisan. “The importance of community has never felt greater than our current time. We have seen our community come together during a pandemic with so many examples of support and responsiveness. I’m thankful to live in Peoria.”  PM

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