donate icon DONATE

From Patient to Provider

The new manager of surgical services at Shriners Children's Lexington was once a patient too.

Kandace Stratton, the new nurse manager of surgical services at Shriners Children’s Lexington, is a familiar face around the medical center.

She has not only been working at Shriner Children’s Lexington for 15 years, but she started her journey as a patient when she was a preteen.

When Kandace was 11, her pediatrician discovered she had scoliosis and referred her to Shriners Children’s for specialty care.

Kandace had adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. Idiopathic scoliosis can run in families, affects girls more often than boys, and is one of three types of scoliosis that causes the spine to develop an abnormal curve. This type of scoliosis typically appears after the age of 10.

For two years, Kandace wore a thoracic lumbar sacral orthotic (TLSO) brace. A TLSO brace is the most common type of brace worn for scoliosis. The brace is made of plastic and is contoured to conform to the body. Kandace wore the close-fitting brace for 23 hours a day in hopes of correcting her spinal curvature as she grew.

Unfortunately, the bracing was not effective for Kandace, and she ended up requiring surgery to permanently correct her curve when she was 14.

Kandace, who had an S-shaped spinal curve, started with an anterior spinal fusion surgery to correct the curve at the lower part of her back in hopes that the upper curve would correct itself. Eventually, she needed a posterior spinal fusion to correct the top of her spine as well.

Just five years after recovering from her own spinal fusion surgery, Kandace came to work at Shriners Children’s Lexington as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in the inpatient unit, helping other kids recover from their own surgeries.

She said her time as a patient at Shriners Children’s inspired her career choice.

“Working at Shriners feels like a full-circle moment for me,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a nurse until I started coming to Shriners. I hated that I had scoliosis as a kid, but working at Shriners Children’s now has brought purpose behind it. Having scoliosis led me to this job and this career that I love. I would not have it any other way.”

Overall, the mission of Shriners is what stands out from other places. The staff became like family to me and made a scary time more comfortable for me and for my parents.
Kandace Stratton, Shriners Children's Lexington

Kandace changed from being a CNA to working as a registered nurse in the inpatient unit, and when Shriners Children’s Lexington moved to its new state-of-the-art medical center in 2017, she switched to working in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) in the ambulatory surgery center (ASC).

In 2021, Kandace became the supervisor in the ASC, and was recently promoted to nurse manager of surgical services, where she also serves as the infection preventionist. In this new role, Kandace oversees all aspects of the ASC, including the operating rooms, pre- and post-operative rooms, and the PACU.

Being a former patient amplifies the care she is able to provide as a nurse and a manager, she said.

“Having been in the shoes of our patients makes it easier to relate to them, and makes me more empathetic in my care for them,” Kandace said. “When they are in pain and I say, ‘I know how you feel,’ I really mean it because I have been there. I have been through the recovery process. I can tell them that I was in their shoes, and they can see where I am now and maybe have a little more hope.”

Connie Wilson, director of patient care services/nurse executive at Shriners Children’s Lexington, said having someone like Kandace in a leadership role helps the patients and staff.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Kandace in her new role as ASC manager,” Wilson said. “Because she has experienced Shriners care from a patient’s perspective, she has firsthand knowledge that is invaluable in guiding the provision of patient care and directing process improvement initiatives that really matter to our patients. She knows better than anyone what we do well and where we have opportunities to improve. Her contributions to quality improvement are priceless.”

The mission of Shriners Children’s, and the people who work to fulfill that mission, are both special to Kandace.

“Overall, the mission of Shriners is what stands out from other places,” she said. “There’s just a different feeling here. It’s not like any other place. The staff became like family to me and made a scary time more comfortable for me and for my parents.”

Now, Kandace plays a key role in providing that very same compassionate, wrap-around care for patients and their families. She even works alongside some of the same people who provided the most amazing care anywhere to her as a child.

“It’s surreal sometimes to see where I came from and where I am now,” she said. “It’s been a full-circle experience for me. I was meant to be here. It feels like part of a greater plan in my life. I take a lot of pride in my job.”

Former Patient Now Provides World-class Care

Kandace Stratton was once a patient at Shriners Children's Lexington, being treated for scoliosis as a teenager. Today, she manages the ambulatory surgery center at Shriners Children's Lexington, comforting and caring for kids to whom she can relate.

nurse cares for a patient after surgery

Kandace cares for a patient after surgery.

nurses monitor a patient after surgery

Kandace (at left bedside) and another nurse work together to monitor a patient after surgery.

nurse places patient into bed after surgery

Kandace gently places a patient back in bed after surgery.

nurses give aid to a patient after a surgery

Kandace collaborates with other nurses after a surgery.

Next Steps

Share Your Story

Our patients and families are at the heart of everything we do at Shriners Children's. We invite you to share how the team at Shriners Children's has helped your child.

Give to Shriners Children's

Through the generosity of donors like you, we've helped over one million children lead more fulfilling lives, regardless of their families' ability to pay.

Contact Us

Have a question or request? Need to make an appointment? We're here for you.