Women of Mizzou: Silvia Tribble never wants to quit learning in her nursing, mechanics careers

Silvia Tribble, a flight nurse for the University Hospital, devotes her life to helping people not only with their health, but with their cars too.


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When going to college, a choice of major doesn’t always depend on what someone loves doing but also the financial benefits that certain degrees bring. Student loans are a serious consideration when thinking about one’s future outside of college. Silvia Tribble, a flight nurse at the University Hospital, knew that becoming a nurse would not only satisfy her intellectual needs but financial ones as well.

The main reason Tribble decided to go into the medical field was because she had witnessed many friends go to college, get a degree and then not have the assets to pay off their loans from college. She knew that she could obtain a steady job after college in the medical field. Even though money was tight for Tribble, she decided to try a study abroad medical school experience in Mexico.

Studying abroad can be daunting when there is a language barrier. Tribble was fearful that her minimal Spanish speaking skills would hold her back, especially since she struggled in Spanish classes during her high school career.

“For some reason, when I talked to people, even though I couldn’t [speak] Spanish very well, when I would listen to their responses I could understand better,” Tribble said. “And so, I pretty much ditched my school books everyday when we got out of school and hopped on the city buses down there and rode all over Mexico on the city buses and just asked people questions and talked to them. That’s how my brain learned Spanish.”

Tribble loved being immersed in Mexican culture while spending a semester abroad during her sophomore year. When Tribble gained some experience abroad, she realized she still had some career searching to do.

“I went down to Mexico to start med school down in Guadalajara,” Tribble said. “But after studying that a little bit I realized that actually my personality type probably fits better with being a nurse.”

Once Tribble came back to Missouri, she was still urgently trying to save money. Tribble loved to help people out whenever possible and never saw helping as being a strain on her personal time or financial struggles. Tribble met some people from MU that had volunteered at the St. Francis House, a local homeless shelter in Columbia.

“I liked this guy named Andy Tribble … he volunteered at St. Francis House and so I thought I will volunteer at St. Francis House too, and that evolved into me becoming really a full-time volunteer there,” Tribble said. “Then, when they had a position open for a live-in volunteer, I took that position. So for my last two years of school, I lived at St. Francis House in exchange for volunteering there, and that reduced my expenses quite a bit as well as gave me a lot of extra study partners.”

Working at St. Francis House changed the preconceived notions Tribble had of what homeless people were like and why they were homeless.

“After living at the homeless shelter, and many of those folks that were homeless becoming very dear friends of mine, it really ruined a lot of my stereotypes, which was a good thing,” Tribble said. “I had no idea that probably the number one cause of people becoming homeless is mental health issues. Until I tried to help someone get into the mental health system, I had no idea how hard it was to try to get help for that. I mean, it’s almost impossible.”

After graduating from MU and leaving St. Francis House, Tribble worked at Boone Hospital Center for a year on a general medicine floor and found herself enduring too much stress. She felt weary over whether she had picked the right career. However, Tribble decided to stick with it and transferred over to the University Hospital in 1994 to the Intensive Care Unit department. After working at the ICU for several years, Tribble decided to try being an Obstetric nurse but found herself unable to handle the emotions that come with that position.

“Back in 2001, I took a break to be an OB nurse for one year because I thought maybe that would be something fun to try, but I hated it,” Tribble said. “I’m really glad there are nurses who are willing to be OB nurses, but I’m not one of them. When it’s happy, it’s really happy and when it’s sad it’s terribly tragic.”

Subsequently, Tribble decided to be a travel nurse stationed in California before coming back to the university and working in the ICU department once more but this time, with a twist.

“I still kept my weekend job in the ICU [at the University Hospital], but I had Monday through Friday off, so I decided to do something for fun and I went to school to be an auto mechanic,” Tribble said. “I worked seven years full-time as a mechanic, Monday through Friday, and then I worked weekends as a nurse [for 24-hour shifts each weekend].”

Even though Tribble was keeping herself busy with two full-time jobs, she loved every second of it, especially learning about the numerous parts of a car in her mechanic work.

Tribble decided to switch things up in 2014.

“Whenever I stop learning, I get bored with life or I get just not happy with life” said Tribble. “So the position came open for a flight nurse, so I thought, ‘Well I’ll give that a try,’ and I just loved it.”

Being able to work in a place that is always working on improving and always striving to be excellent was a must, Tribble said. Working in a team setting gave Tribble long-lasting friendships, which was a bonus to the already rewarding work of being a nurse.

“[Flight nurses] usually have the same common goals and so we just try to accomplish them as best as we can when there’s two people present and a lot of work to do,” Teresa Janney, a fellow flight nurse at the University Hospital, said.

As for her auto career, it is rare to be a woman mechanic but actually has become more common in present day. Tribble has faced many issues from being a woman in general but always bounces back.

“It is challenging to be as strong as one needs to be,” Tribble said. “I remember when I was at school at [State Technical College], there was a student who sat behind me and made some growling remarks about [how] women shouldn’t be in the shop, and I remember turning around to him and saying, ‘Would you like to say that to my face?’ And when he saw me, he realized that I was old enough to be his mother. But you know after that, even the students at Linn Tech never gave me a problem.”

Surrounding yourself with people that support you and give you feedback is an important lesson Tribble had to learn throughout her life, according to Tribble. Now, she translates her life lessons into the work that she pursues.

“I would rather help people figure out how to [fix their own cars] themselves,” Tribble said.

Tribble continues to work as a flight nurse and said she hopes to extend her new career as long as possible. Helping those in need is what gives Tribble the most joy. Altruism is a characteristic that Tribble has had her whole life, and one that she plans to spread.

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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