Browse Author: Paul Hackbarth

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PCRMC Diabetes Education Services Improve Quality of Life for Patients

Clay Howlett was a junior in high school when he was diagnosed with diabetes. He felt dehydrated and had lost weight, about 25 pounds. Initially, Clay went to his family doctor and then to a hospital, where he was given his first dose of insulin.

“I was told I couldn’t have any sugar,” Clay recalls. “I remember one time during ball practice, my blood sugar dropped really low.” Clay says he experienced other symptoms, such as being tired, breaking out in sweats and constantly feeling thirsty.

Since age 17, Clay has had type 1 diabetes, which occurs when a person’s body does not produce insulin, a hormone that helps move sugar, or glucose, into the body’s tissues, where cells use it as fuel. According to the American Diabetes Association, only 5% of people with diabetes have the type 1 form.

Before that time, Clay did not know many people with diabetes. A dispatcher who worked for his father had the disease. Clay later learned one of his great-grandparents had diabetes.

“My uncle, my dad’s brother, was diabetic, too. He had type 2 diabetes, (when a person’s body does not properly use insulin) but he controlled it with his diet,” Clay says.

In his senior year in high school, Clay wanted to learn as much as he could about the condition he had, so he wrote his term paper on diabetes that year.

Clay has what some people refer to as brittle diabetes, as his wife of 12 years Patty explains. Brittle diabetes causes a person’s blood sugar levels to spike or drop at rapid rates. “His blood sugar can drop really quickly,” Patty says. “For a time there, every hour, we weren’t sure what would happen next.”

During a visit to his mother in Springfield, Missouri, Clay’s blood sugar dropped to an extremely low rate, so he was taken by an ambulance to a local hospital.

When Clay returned home to Rolla, Patty encouraged him to visit his doctor, Bohdan Lebedowicz, MD, an internal medicine physician with the Phelps County Regional Medical Center (PCRMC) Medical Group. Dr. Lebedowicz asked if Clay would be interested in PCRMC’s diabetes education services.

Both Clay and Patty say they felt they already knew a lot about diabetes but initially agreed to attend one session.

That same day as Clay’s appointment with Dr. Lebedowicz, the Howletts met with Pati Cox, MEd, BSN, RN, a diabetic nurse educator at PCRMC, who did glucagon teaching (an injection to help with low blood sugars when a person is unconscious) and discussed the diabetes education classes more in-depth with them.

“Pati said that PCRMC offered individualized classes catered to each patient,” Patty recalls, adding that Cox was able to work around her and Clay’s schedules. “Clay really connected with Pati.”

According to Clay, PCRMC’s diabetes education classes are thorough, and the diabetes educators encourage patients to become very involved in their own care. “They have given me a better quality of life,” he says.

Patty says she attended the classes, as well, because she wanted to learn more about diabetes to help her husband.

Besides an incident in Jefferson City in February of 2018 when he was given a different brand of insulin, Clay has had no major problems with extreme blood sugar levels since participating in PCRMC’s diabetes education classes.

Clay says because of his foot ulcers, he cannot exercise much, but he follows his doctor’s and diabetes nurse educators’ recommendations of having four carbohydrates and two proteins each day during his meals. Clay says he used to buy orange juice all of the time to help with his blood sugar levels, but now, he hardly drinks it.

“The classes are so easy to understand, and Pati is so positive about it,” Clay says. “It’s definitely been a life saver.”

PCRMC offers a free diabetes support group for diabetes patients, their family members, caregivers and anyone interested in finding out more about diabetes. The support group meets the first Saturday of the month, except for January, July and September, from 10 a.m. to noon at PCRMC.

The PCRMC Diabetes Outpatient Clinic offers services in Rolla and Waynesville. For more information about Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support services at PCRMC, talk to your primary care provider, call 573-458-7314 or visit pcrmc.com.

Amy Ross

Longtime PCRMC Nurse Shares Why She Loves Her Job

Nursing was not always the first career choice for Amy Ross, a nursing supervisor at Phelps County Regional Medical Center (PCRMC). She originally wanted to be a dietitian.

Her college roommate was studying nursing, and when Ross learned of all the things her roommate was doing as a nurse, Ross decided to switch her major.

“I’m so glad I did,” says Ross, who has been a nurse since 1990. “There is nothing else I would rather do. There has never been one day that I regret making the decision to become a nurse.”

Ross first earned an associate’s degree and later went back to school to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at Drury University. Her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is from Central Methodist University. Ross also has a certificate in clinical nursing leadership.

In 1998, Ross joined the PCRMC nursing team. She began as a nurse in PCRMC’s operating rooms. She later transitioned to a nursing role in medical oncology and then became a nursing director in that department.

Ross now works in PCRMC’s Nursing Administration Office and has been in her current position as a nursing supervisor for about three years. Additionally, she works one day a week in PCRMC’s Patient Access Services Office, which helps patients transition between other facilities and PCRMC.

“I love this job,” Ross says. “I am constantly learning new things, and as a nursing supervisor, I get to interact with nurses in all units and on all floors.”

While she left for a short time to take a nursing job in the St. Louis area, Ross has been employed by PCRMC for most of her career.

“This is one of the best places to work. The employees really care about each other here, and the leadership is very supportive of the nursing staff. Nursing administrators at PCRMC are accessible, too.”

Nurses work in several different care settings, not just hospitals. There are nurses in the anesthesia units, doctors’ offices, homecare and hospice settings and other areas. Additionally, Ross says PCRMC nursing leaders can be accommodating to nurses’ schedules. PCRMC offers tuition reimbursement, which Ross utilized when pursuing her nursing degrees.

While Ross says nurses will likely experience hard days, overall, the job is worth it when those difficult times occur. “It’s a good feeling when patients and their families thank you for making a big impact on their lives,” she says. “Nurses really get to touch the lives of everyone.”

Outside of PCRMC, Ross likes to stay healthy and enjoys running, which she says is a stress reliever. She has been running for almost 30 years now. She started running about 2 to 3 miles at a time and has built up her stamina.

In April of 2018, Ross participated in the Boston Marathon. She completed the race with a time of 4 hours, 44 minutes.

“This was something that has been on my bucket list,” she says. It took her 6 years to train and qualify for the event. Despite running through the cold and rain during the marathon, Ross says it was an experience of a lifetime.

Ross encourages her fellow colleagues and patients to exercise. “It doesn’t have to be running. Just find an activity to do for about 30 minutes a day. It makes you feel much better,” she says.

Nurses spend a lot of their time giving of themselves to patients and their families during their jobs. Ross says it is important for nurses to take time for themselves, too.

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Join PCRMC in Celebrating National Nurses Week

Nurses at Phelps County Regional Medical Center (PCRMC) and around the country are being honored this week, as the American Nurses Association (ANA) celebrates National Nurses Week.

The theme for this year’s National Nurses Week is “Nurses Inspire, Innovate, Influence.” Nurses are advocates who help move healthcare forward.

During National Nurses Week, PCRMC leaders and staff would like to extend a special thanks to nurses, who provide the highest level of quality care in multiple specialty areas to patients of all ages. Nurses are valuable assets to the communities they serve.

“We appreciate our nurses every day, but National Nurses Week is a great opportunity to take the time to celebrate everything that nurses do,” says PCRMC Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer Keri Brookshire-Heavin.

Nurses make up the highest number of hospital employees across Missouri, Brookshire-Heavin notes. “We couldn’t offer compassionate care without nurses,” she says. “Whether it is helping deliver a baby or holding the hand of a patient, nurses are hard-working and dedicated in their jobs every day.”

PCRMC Administrative Director of Patient Care Services Cindy Butler says nurses are often the first contact for patients in healthcare settings. “They are usually the most memorable people, too,” Butler says. “Patients remember how nurses made them feel better and how they cared for them.”

While being a nurse can be demanding at times, the interactions nurses have with their patients and peers make their jobs extremely rewarding.

PCRMC nurses deserve special recognition for their efforts in delivering exceptional care while also having an unfailing commitment to saving lives. In addition, they are dedicated to improving the health of countless patients. At PCRMC, nurses sacrifice numerous hours of their time to consistently deliver outstanding, personalized and patient-centered care.

National Nurses Week is observed each year beginning on May 6 and ending on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale was known as the founder of modern nursing. During the Crimean War, she tended to soldiers and was called “The Lady with the Lamp” since she made her rounds at night.

Check Presentation

Volunteers Recognized at 2018 Auxiliary Appreciation Luncheon

Volunteers with the Phelps County Regional Medical Center (PCRMC) Auxiliary & Volunteer Services Department (Auxiliary) were honored during an appreciation luncheon Wednesday, April 18, 2018, at the Rolla Lions Club Den. This year’s theme was “Volunteers…PCRMC’s Special Ingredient for Success!” The annual event recognizes volunteers for their years of service and volunteer hours with the Auxiliary.

Volunteers who have served 20 years or more with the Auxiliary received certificates and flowers. There are currently 11 volunteers who have at least 20 years of service with the PCRMC Auxiliary. They are listed as follows:

  • Audrey Huddleson, with 36 years;
  • Velma Overby and Linda Marsh, each with 25 years;
  • Jean Joiner and Jean Platt, each with 23 years;
  • Illa Bell, Judy Grady, Pat Lizotte, Leona Rosenow and Jean Sidener, all with 21 years; and
  • Linda Dean, with 20 years

The PCRMC Auxiliary volunteers provided a total of 20,224 service hours in 2017. That includes hours from both adult and teen programs.

In addition to the Auxiliary volunteers, hospice volunteers, who provided 669 service hours last year, were acknowledged. Also in 2017, chaplains provided 58 hours of volunteer service and visited 7,869 patients.

During the event, accomplishments of the Auxiliary volunteers as well as projects they completed in the past year were recognized.

One major contribution announced at the luncheon was the donation of $220,000 to PCRMC for the purchase of a new ambulance. PCRMC CEO Ed Clayton led a toast to celebrate the achievement, thanking the Auxiliary for being generous with their financial resources over the years.

“This ambulance is much-needed for our fleet,” Clayton noted.

He added that hospital administration and staff appreciate all that volunteers do on a daily basis. “Our patients and visitors see your smiling and caring faces when they walk in, and our organization would not be able to do what it does without the Auxiliary,” Clayton said.

Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer Keri Brookshire-Heavin also expressed her appreciation for the volunteers. “The significance this donation will make to our facility and our patients is incredible,” she said.

Girls Gone Catering prepared the lunches, desserts and beverages for the event. Lindy Hardwick, one of PCRMC’s chaplains, led the invocation, and the Wild Rose Band provided entertainment. In addition, there were door prizes given away to the volunteers.

Tina Pridgeon, PCRMC Auxiliary director, along with Crystal Lorah, Auxiliary specialist, hosted the luncheon.

Jullie Barrett

Jullie’s Story: Understanding Diabetes Better with PCRMC Diabetes Nurse Educators

About two to three years ago, Jullie Barrett, who lives in Rolla and was raised in Waynesville, visited her doctor, who believed Barrett’s blood sugar was too high based on her symptoms.

Barrett was given an A1C test, a common blood test used to diagnose diabetes, and the results showed her average blood sugar level over three months was about 10 percent (approximately 250 mg/dL). A normal hemoglobin A1C level is below 5.7 percent (less than 115 mg/dL).

Because her A1C level was so high, her doctor thought Barrett had possibly had diabetes since she was a child.

Barrett has type 2 diabetes, the most common form of this chronic illness. Also called hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes occurs when a person’s body does not properly use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes does not allow the body to use sugar effectively for energy.

“When I found out I was diabetic, it was shocking,” she says. “I thought, ‘This can’t be.’” Barrett has a family history of diabetes. Her mother has the disease as did one of her grandmothers.

Unlike a broken arm or difficulty breathing, diabetes symptoms are not always obvious. Barrett says she had numbness in her legs and damage to the retina of her eyes, both believed to be the long-term result of diabetes.

After being diagnosed, Barrett initially was referred to a dietitian. “I thought I had a handle on how to eat,” Barrett recalls. However, no matter what she tried, she could not lower her blood sugar levels.

Barrett’s physician eventually placed her on insulin and referred her to the Phelps County Regional Medical Center (PCRMC) Diabetes Outpatient Clinic, where she met with Pati Cox, MEd, BSN, RN, a diabetic nurse educator.

“It was really eye-opening,” Barrett says of meeting with Cox and taking part in the Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support services at PCRMC. “I learned so much, and it really helped me understand things like what happens when I eat certain foods and how I should be eating.”

When she first started going to classes at the PCRMC Diabetes Outpatient Clinic, Barrett did not know what to expect. “However, I got the feeling from the diabetes nurse educators that they really cared about me and put me at ease,” she says.

Barrett has completed the 10-hour program, which is divided into four classes, each focusing on different areas of diabetes, such as creating healthy meal plans, managing blood sugar levels and using a glucose meter, among other topics.

Because of her nerve damage, Barrett cannot walk much, but she enjoys swimming and riding bikes. Six months before taking classes at the PCRMC Diabetes Outpatient Clinic, she bought a new bicycle. “I ride it a lot more often now that I’m feeling better,” Barrett says, adding that she has more energy. Barrett can ride 25 miles or longer on a weekend day.

Additionally, she has made changes to her meals. “Before, I was not eating as well as I should have been. Now, my breakfast meals are about 75-80 percent vegetables,” she says. She also reports that she has lost over 50 pounds on her journey, which has aided in lowering her blood sugars.

Barrett began taking insulin around April of 2017, and while she still uses insulin, she has reduced the amount she uses due to her ability to better manage her diabetes with healthy eating, exercise and recognizing complications that call for immediate attention from her primary care provider.

Barrett continues to follow up with her physician and the PCRMC diabetes nurse educators. “I would definitely recommend the PCRMC Diabetes Outpatient Clinic. I wish I would have paid attention to my doctor sooner,” she says.

For more information about Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support services at PCRMC, talk to your primary care provider or call 573-458-7314.