Shoulda…Coulda…Woulda, the place where most minds wander when considering where one is in life. For Melissa Gingrich, 4-time LCL Health Career Scholarship recipient, it took a medical scare with her father that made her decide that she wanted him to watch her walk across the stage. “My dad was concerned that I would not finish my BSN.  I made him a promise that I would, then I got married, babies came along, and the timing just didn’t seem right. I loved what I did as an OB/GYN/ PEDS nurse, so there was no sense of urgency until his health scare.” Nearly 10 years after putting a personal goal on her annual work evaluation, Melissa went back to school to get her BSN.

Melissa enjoys time with patient

A BSN became just the first check point. Throughout her schooling, Melissa capitalized on the mentorship of two healthcare professionals. By her graduation, Melissa logged over 900 hours of valuable experience with procedures, protocols and expertise that no textbook can replace.   Dr. Ted Haas, an area health practitioner was proud to be one of Melissa’s mentors.  “The women she cared for appreciated her compassionate manner, pleasant smile and comprehensive care.”

For Melissa, comprehensive care means talking with patients in line at the grocery store or getting a health update while eating at a local restaurant. Because HIPAA regulations requires health care professionals to be careful with discussion outside of the office setting, Melissa often provides patients with her personal cell phone number. “They know that I care and that I support them in their health efforts.” This is what it means to be a practitioner in a small healthcare system in rural Iowa.  “If you are going into nursing, do it because you love people. I can honestly say that I am paid for the paperwork, because I would see the patients even if I was not paid”

Melissa is an ARNP practicing at the Ottumwa OB/GYN Clinic. She also volunteers at the Ezra Medical Clinic which provides free healthcare services for low income and uninsured individuals. A large number of Melissa’s patients at both clinics are struggling with their weight. The 2018 County Health Ranking report from the Robert Wood Johnson  Foundation ranks Wapello County’s overall health at 96 out of the 99 Iowa Counties. The alarming obesity rates (35%) and the associated chronic conditions are one of her biggest concerns. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), people who have obesity are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions including the following:

If Melissa could go back and do it all over, would she change her course? Absolutely not! She believes that her 20 years of nursing and life experience made understanding health and illness easier than a new grad without experience. However, if asked, Melissa would advise younger nurses to get their degree when they are younger”… because life gets in the way sometimes.”

Click here for more information about the Laboratory Control Ltd. Health Career Scholarship Program.