Nurses’ roles in preventive care continuing to expand

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Nurses’ roles in preventive care are expanding, according to Southwestern Michigan College Nursing and Health Services Dean Rebecca Jellison.

“Nurses go back to school to become practitioners because of the way our health care system is going,” Jellison said. “You can’t get in to see a doctor, so you see a nurse practitioner for physicals, inoculations, coughs or colds. At last year’s Indiana Hospital Association meeting, state leaders talked about Walgreen’s and CVS emerging as big health care deliverers. People come in for prescriptions and practitioners see patients.”

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who completed coursework and clinical education beyond that required of registered nurses (RNs).

By 2020, there will be an estimated shortage of 800,000 nurses as baby boomers who hung on through the uncertainty of the 2007-09 Great Recession retire.

The Affordable Care Act stokes demand as more than 30 million previously uninsured access state health insurance exchanges or qualify for Medicaid.

Uninsureds tended to defer until needing urgent hospital care, putting off keeping up with meds, getting annual physicals and keeping kids current on shots.

With added access, they’ll seek services APRNs and RNs provide.

“Sixty percent of nurses in this country are educated at the ADN (two-year associate degree) level first because there is a place for them at the bedside,” Jellison said. “The Institute of Medicine wants 80 percent of nurses to have (four-year) bachelor’s degrees by 2020.”

Established in 1970, IOM is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, chartered in 1863 under President Abraham Lincoln.

“Our graduates know I’m talking about (lifelong learning) before they leave,” Jellison said. “Most get jobs and go back to school online.”

SMC graduates get hired after achieving 100-percent pass rates on state boards in both practical and registered nursing in 2014.

Nursing’s flexibility attracts Generation Y Millennials “because they know they can do so much with it,” Jellison said. “They can make their own schedule. They find that very appetizing.”

Jellison, whose 37 years include three at SMC, knew as a girl she wanted to be a nurse, though she narrowed her broad goal to cardiac care, directing a heart center in Elkhart, Ind.

A growing field, travel nursing, offers variety in temporary positions, which appeals to professionals combining adventure, flexibility and financial reward.


“Patterns indicate shortages exist and may persist or worsen in a number of states. In our area, we don’t have great need, but other areas of the country do,” Jellison said. “If you get a total hip done, if you have post-op problems, you convalesce at a rehab center. You’re not staying at an acute care facility. You’re in and out quickly. It’s about preventing acute illnesses. Southern states, California and out West and the East are going to need nurses.

”They’re going to need more LPNs than we have by 2025. With the outpatient needs of baby boomers, rehab centers and long-term care facilities, there’s still going to be a big need for LPNs.”

A licensed practical nurse typically completes one year of training. Under the direction of a physician or registered nurse, LPNs provide essential basic care, taking vital signs, applying dressings, monitoring catheters and assisting with patient hygiene.

“The minute (students) come in the door they start clinicals and hit the ground running. They see everything, from psych and OB to critical care. They go into surgery. That’s what’s so good about associate degree programs. They’re in clinicals right away,” Jellison said. ”When you go to a four-year institution, maybe junior year you get into clinicals for fewer hours.”

Clinicals dispatch students across a 60-mile radius — Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Niles, Mishawaka, Granger, Elkhart — two eight-hour days a week for seven weeks.

“Our graduates are valuable on the job because they’re clinically strong. They care for patients and do whatever a nurse does, with supervision. It’s a powerful experience because you have life and death at work, then go home and have your own life to deal with. You must have intestinal fortitude. You must have passion, which I instill in our students. You’re not going to be a good nurse if you don’t care about your patients.”

“What I like at SMC is students work really hard to get here. Students work all summer so they can pay bills during school. They have classes Wednesdays and Thursdays, papers to write, care plans to do, plus reading and studying. Their heads are in books all the time.”

Alumni Spotlight

Wendy Steinkraus turned to Southwestern Michigan College when she decided to go back to school upon her family settling in Edwardsburg in the mid-1990s.

The Marcellus mother of four already had two children and was awarded the Return to Learning Scholarship.

Steinkraus worked eight years as a registered nurse after completing a bachelor’s degree through SMC partner Bethel College, but knew she wanted to press on with her education.

Steinkraus became a family nurse practitioner (FNP) through Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky.

She has worked in two Niles settings, Southwestern Medical Clinic Center for Women’s Health and Lakeland Weight Loss Center.

“I enjoy helping teens and young adults be healthy,” she said.

“I love Southwestern,” said Steinkraus, whose husband is a forester.

Two of her children followed her to SMC.

Steinkraus recently co-authored a chapter for a Caring for the Vulnerable textbook.

Trustee uses business degree in hospital

Trustee Beth J. Cripe works for a hospital — but not in health care.

Beth Cripe

Beth Cripe

She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Albion College in 1986 and her master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Loyola University in 1990.

Cripe joined the SMC Board of Trustees in 2011, succeeding Dan Wyant, who became a member of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s cabinet directing the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

After graduating from Loyola, Cripe worked for the Chicago Board Options Exchange and Hull Trading Co.

She and her husband, Dr. Matthew Cripe, returned to their hometown 25 years ago so he could open his dental practice.

For Dowagiac’s non-profit Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital, Cripe relies on her business background in a fundraising role similar to Eileen Toney’s as Director of Development and Executive Director of the SMC Foundation.

She has worked at the hospital for eight years, since 2007.

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