News Blog

From Rugby Field to Hospital Administrator: A Nurse’s Rise at Penn Medicine Princeton Health

Phil Tran

Phil Tran’s first encounter with Princeton Medical Center (PMC) was when he was a student at The College of New Jersey and president of the rugby team.

“Rugby is a pretty rough sport, and inevitably players got injured,” Tran explained. “Princeton Medical Center was the closest hospital, and as the president of the team I would always go with my injured teammates.”

“We always had a great experience,” he added.

That was in the early 2000s.

Little did Tran know then that he would not only end up working at what is now Penn Medicine Princeton Health, but that he would quickly become a rising star who today is a member of the Quality Team and is credited with helping to build the hospital’s stroke program.

Always Moving Forward

Tran, 35, grew up in Marlton, N.J., where as a high school student he excelled in science and sports. He majored in health and exercise science in college, and upon graduation landed a job as a strength and conditioning coach for high school and college athletes.

But after several years, Tran decided he wanted to try something new.

“I became a lot more interested in medicine and was having a lot of conversations with friends of mine who were going into nursing,” Tran said.  “I just thought it was so cool and the clinical aspect of nursing really appealed to me.”

So in 2011, he enrolled in the accelerated nursing program at what was then the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and today is the Rutgers University School of Nursing.

He also found himself back at PMC.

As a nursing student, Tran took classes during the day and worked as a patient transporter at the hospital at night. On slow nights, he would find a quiet place to break out his flashcards and study.

“Every time I turned around, he’d be sitting in an alcove studying,” said Wendy Luca, professional development specialist and RN residency program coordinator at the time.

Building a Stroke Program

It wasn’t long until Tran officially joined the nursing staff at PMC, working for nearly six years on the Critical Care Unit. During that time, he became a charge nurse, served on the Unit Based Council, and spearheaded the successful application for the Beacon Award for Excellence, a quality recognition presented by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

In 2017, Tran became the Stroke Coordinator, responsible for building PMC’s comprehensive stroke program from the ground up.

As the Stroke Coordinator, Tran was involved in the development, implementation, and monitoring of clinical processes. For example, he worked with the Emergency Department at PMC and the Penn Neuro Rescue team at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to implement an inpatient telestroke protocol so that patients having strokes in the hospital during off hours, weekends and holidays, could see a neurologist via telemedicine to improve time to treatment.

Tran has also played an active role in educating the community about stroke. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he visited nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and senior centers to lecture on stroke prevention and recognition. Because of the pandemic, the lectures are now delivered online.  

Additionally, when Tran became Stroke Coordinator, he joined the Jersey Stroke Coordinators Consortium where he met other coordinators and began to infuse best practices into the program at PMC. He went on to become treasurer of that organization and remains an active member.

“It is unusual for someone who is so early in their nursing career to successfully take the lead on building a clinical program, but Phil’s clinical knowledge and passion for enhancing stroke care inspired everyone on the team,” said Kathy Ryan, MSN, administrative director of the Neuroscience and Orthopedic service lines at Princeton Health. “Phil was great to work with. He helped us set and achieve goals and benchmarks, meet deadlines and make our vision for a stroke program a reality.”

Thanks in large part to Tran’s leadership of the team and his close collaboration with physicians, PMC has earned designation as a Primary Stroke Center, an advanced certification granted by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and The Joint Commission.

Primary Stroke Center recognition is based on an expert evaluation of the hospital’s compliance with stroke-related standards and requirements, including program management, the delivery of clinical care, and performance improvement.

This year, for the third year in a row, PMC earned the Get With The Guidelines®– Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award, which is granted by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) to hospitals that demonstrate a commitment to high-quality stroke care based on the latest scientific evidence.

To receive the Gold Plus Award, PMC met or exceeded specific quality achievement measures for diagnosing and treating stroke patients for 24 consecutive months. The measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments aligned with the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability.

“The most important driving factor in our ability to improve and maintain high-quality care has been a well-represented, engaged stroke committee, consisting of representatives from all the areas and departments that touch a stroke patient,” said Tran, who serves as a mentor for other teams seeking certification for their programs. “Only through collaboration and teamwork have we been able to move the needle on these important metrics.”

Because of his success with the stroke program, Tran was recently named as regulatory affairs manager for the Quality Team at PMC, which is dedicated to ensuring safety, improving outcomes and enhancing the patient experience. His expertise will be instrumental in Princeton Health’s upcoming Joint Commission accreditation survey.

Doing His Part During Pandemic

Phil Tran_Ironman

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Tran returned to the Critical Care Unit to help his colleagues treat patients who were critically ill with the virus.

“The nurses on the Critical Care Unit are my second family,” Tran said. “I wanted to do whatever I could do to help ease their stress, and I wanted to do my part to respond to the pandemic.”

Tran recalled a particularly tough case in which the family of a patient he had been caring for asked him to be with their loved one when they took their final breaths.

“I felt I had to do that for them,” Tran said. “It was one of the hardest days I had as a nurse.”

A Passion for Care and Living

When Tran isn’t working, he enjoys cooking — pan seared scallops are his specialty — and salsa dancing. He’s also an accomplished tri-athlete and competes in two to three races a year.

In July, he and his wife, Jackie, competed in a half Iron Man in Atlantic City. They had just gotten married the week before and even trained on their wedding day.

“Phil is just driven to do well in whatever he does,” Luca said. “He’s also always such a positive person. I love working with him.” 

For his part, Tran said he is always thinking about what he can do next and how he can grow, but most importantly how he can better serve patients.

“By far, the best part of my job is seeing patients get better,” Tran said. “When someone comes in with a profound disease, and we can help them get their life back, it really reinforces why we do what we do.”

You Might Also Be Interested In...

About this Blog

This blog is written and produced by Penn Medicine’s Department of Communications. Subscribe to our mailing list to receive an e-mail notification when new content goes live!

Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

Health information is provided for educational purposes and should not be used as a source of personal medical advice.

Blog Archives


Author Archives

Share This Page: