She’s a little bit caring and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. Jessi Ridinger, a former lead singer and classic rock radio disc jockey, is graduating from the University of Colorado College of Nursing in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. As a nurse, she will raise her voice to advocate for preventive health and mental health care.
“Eat a balanced meal, drink lots of water and get exercise. Everyone needs to do those basics when they’re young to prevent problems as they grow older. We also need to have conversations early on about mental health so that talk therapy is possible and we can reduce the stigma around mental health issues,” says Jessi Ridinger, BSN class of 2022 at CU College of Nursing.
From DJ to Healthcare
Before she beat the drum for good health care, Ridinger spun records for five years as the number one DJ at a classic rock radio station in Missouri. She was also the lead singer in a band.
Musical talent ran in her family. Her dad toured with the United Service Organization in the 70s and 80s as a pianist and bassist and opened for Blues singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt, the rock band Dooby Brothers, and other musicians. Her mom was a gospel singer and performed with local bands.
“Since my parents were musicians, I basically grew up in the wings of shows or in the front row,” Ridinger says.
Nurses who helped her mother planted the seed to a career in nursing
She got interested in the nursing profession 15 years ago after her mother had a hysterectomy. Despite complications in her health, Ridinger says the nurses who cared for her mom and her siblings through the ordeal were “guiding lights.”
“The nurses were wonderful human beings. That experience planted the seed for me to get into healthcare.”
Ridinger already had a bachelor’s degree in psychology from CU Denver. She then applied at the CU College of Nursing and planned to work in trauma care. But her course changed one night after caring for a severely injured child in a car crash.
“It was my first night on pediatric rotation at Denver Health. I saw something preventable and sad and scary; a child had been in a traffic accident and hadn’t been wearing a set belt. I cried all the way home,” said the mother of two boys.
“While I know it’s going to be emotionally challenging, I need to go down the path of helping children. Parents and children need to be educated on proper diets, the need for proper hydration, and the need to get outside and get their hearts pumping. We can’t prevent things like genetic disorders, but we can try to make kids as healthy as possible and set them up for success.”
A Gig at Children’s Hospital Colorado Awaits
After graduation, Ridinger will take her state nursing exam called the NCLEX, then will work at Children’s Hospital in Aurora for the Pediatric Mental Health Institute and promote physical and mental health preventative care for low-income populations.
“I think you can create habits and experiences when you’re young that solidify in your brain. Even if you don’t remember the events, you remember the feelings of a healthy state. If we can make an impression on kids in health and mental health, then we can prevent problems for them in the future.”