Second Career in Radiography Inspires Celebration Campaign Gift

Mar. 15, 2017

It was nearly 30 years after earning a degree in science education that Nancy Madsen, B.S., R.T.(R)(M), began working as a radiologic technologist.

“I met my husband, Jim, at the county fair through a dairy project, and married him shortly after graduating from Oregon State University in 1969,” Nancy said. “Growing up, all he wanted to do was be a farmer; he received his first Ayrshire dairy calf when he was nine years old.”

Like Jim, Nancy grew up on a small family farm with her seven brothers and sisters. She and her siblings raised animals through their participation in 4-H.

“Together Jim and I grew the dairy farm until we had 180 head of registered Ayrshires — 90 milking cows all of which I raised as bottle calves.”

The couple milked cows, raised crops and even exhibited their cattle at fairs in Washington and Oregon. It was hard but fulfilling work operating the farm for so many years.

Transitioning Careers

In 1993 Jim told Nancy he would like to sell the cows and retire. Nancy had no objections but expressed her desire to return to school and pursue a new career.

“When I told him I wanted to go back to school he said, ‘That’s a good idea,’ but I think it shocked him a bit when I enrolled in school six weeks later,” Nancy said. “It took him another five years to sell the cows.”

Nancy continued to work on the farm while taking classes part time to complete her prerequisites for radiography school. She then spent two years as a full-time student at Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon, before graduating in 1996 with a 4.0 gpa.

Her Time as an R.T.

“The day after I graduated, I was hired by my clinical site, Kaiser Permanente,” Nancy said. “I’ve been a staff radiologic technologist there for over 20 years now.”

In 2005 Nancy was selected to be the clinical instructor at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center for radiography students from her alma mater, Portland Community College. The promotion brought her full circle, back to her original career goal of teaching.

“I taught anywhere from six to 10 students each year,” she said, “and it was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. It had its challenges, but the joy of experiencing [the moment] when everything started to make sense for the students kept me going. Knowing that you made a difference in more than 50 student’s lives and helped them find the satisfaction of an important career is what it is all about.”

Changing careers wasn’t all work and no play, though. While Nancy and Jim left the farm for only seven days total in the first 12 years of their marriage, they’ve since started to balance out those years of hard work with some interesting vacations.

“With Jim retired and my work schedule a little more stable, my sister and I took it upon ourselves to teach Jim how to vacation,” she joked. “Our first trip was a cruise to Alaska, and it took a lot of convincing to get him to go along with it. In the end he had a great time, and when we got home he asked, ‘Where are you taking me next year?’”

Since then they’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. Their most recent trip was a cruise to Norway to celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary.

Looking to the Future

Preparing to retire and join Jim in his easy chair led Nancy to reflect on both parts of their lives with pride and satisfaction. Thinking about everything that has happened in her life, she knew she wanted to give back to the profession she had grown to love, and the Celebration Campaign was just the opportunity she’d been seeking.

“We didn’t have children, and so we looked for a way that the money we’d saved over the years would make a difference,” Nancy said. “Radiography was a big part of the last half of my working life, and I wanted to be able to ensure that others had the opportunity to pursue it like I did.”

Creating a scholarship through the ASRT Foundation seemed like the best way to pay it forward, Nancy said. She wants the funds to inspire others to pursue a career in medical imaging and hopes the gift will continue the sentiment she gives her students when they graduate: “Now go forth and radiate!”