Park City single mom lands dream job at hospital
Jo Duff says she inherited a gift that has guided and nurtured her throughout her life. In spite of a few detours along the road, haven’t we all had them, it brought her to Park City, a town she loves, and to the job she was almost destined to have.
She grew up an "Army brat," moving coast-to-coast from Washington, D.C. to California, with stopovers in Texas and Washington state. "We lived on the Presidio in San Francisco for a year before the base was closed," she recalls. "I had a view of Alcatraz from my window. I would sit there and stare out at the bay daydreaming for hours."
After high school, she attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She went on to earn a master’s degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism at the University of Florida.
Duff’s passion has always been to help others. "I literally live to do so," affirms the energetic, outgoing single mother, who last week passed her board exams to become a Registered Nurse. "I have this gift that was passed down to me from my beautiful mother and grandmother," she explains. "We sort of have this ‘sense’ of what people need and how to help them. It’s a compassion that isn’t teachable. You’re born with it or you’re not. I can’t fully explain or quantify it, it just is. I want to make a difference in people’s lives, even if they don’t know it was me making it."
Duff has been doing just that for 19 years in Park City. She arrived here early in 1996, fresh out of graduate school, to take a job as recreation coordinator at Marriott’s Summit Watch. "I had never heard of Park City so, true to my nature, I leaped at the opportunity sight unseen and came here without knowing a soul," she says. "Park City has been my home now for almost 20 years. I love that I can take a run and pass a moose nearly every time. I can step outside our door with my children and take a nature walk at a moment’s notice."
She held several jobs in her field over the next several years and worked freelance as a wedding and event planner when she finally found her footing in 2008. "I was at home with my baby late one night when a bride-to-be called me very upset about the color of her flowers," she recounts. "Something literally clicked in my head that told me I needed to do something different with my life. I just decided that I had only so much to give and I wanted to give it in a healing environment. That’s when I started down this path toward health care, sort of following in my dad’s footsteps." Duff’s father is a doctor and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Florida.
Duff was hired as the volunteer manager at the Park City Medical Center when the hospital opened in August of 2009. Envisioning a volunteer program like that of Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, she built a comprehensive program from scratch. Over 100 volunteers at the Center are now cross-trained to do virtually every volunteer job at the facility. "Volunteers are the heart of the hospital — they’re everything," says Duff. For her outstanding accomplishments, she was named "Extraordinary Employee of the Year" in 2011.
Not satisfied with only one job, from 2012 through 2014 Duff also worked as the health unit coordinator of the Emergency Department and later became a patient care assistant and scrub technician for the Women and Newborn Unit. Then there was school, always school. Duff graduated last month from the Salt Lake Community College Nursing Program with honors and a 4.0 grade average.
The last five years have been both challenging and rewarding for Duff on her path to find her calling. But she says it’s all been worth it. She began her new job as a nurse at Primary Children’s Hospital on January 5th. She’s working in the newborn intensive care unit, nurturing newborns and their families during "the most difficult experience of their lives."
The journey is just beginning for Duff, who will surely be putting her "gift" to good use at last.
Favorite things to do: paddle-board, hike, camp, travel
Favorite foods: sushi, popcorn and cheese
Favorite authors/reading: Jodi Piccoult, "The Book Thief," "The Art of Dancing in the Rain"
Favorite performers/music: Snow Patrol, "I like a huge variety of music, including country. Don’t laugh, but I am currently a huge Taylor Swift fan, largely due to my children."
Bucket List: "I long to stay in one of those huts on the water in Tahiti or Bora Bora." Also travel with her children to Europe.
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Aiko ready for a two-night jam session in Park City.