In celebration of Women’s History Month, meet some of the amazing women working hard to ensure the health and welfare of our community.
I have been a registered nurse since 2001 and have spent nearly two decades working as a public health nurse, first in Yellowstone County and in my current position.
Why does your work matter?
I believe that if the community is healthy, we all prosper individually. I believe that a child should ALWAYS have access to healthcare, and I believe that clean water, vaccinations, clean air, and mental health resources are critical to the health of a family, community, and nation. (Plus, it is cost effective to prevent disease than to treat disease.) Finally, I am loud (annoying my coworkers), articulate, and a fierce advocate for people who cannot defend themselves in accessing these basic resources. I believe that one person served creates a ripple effect and this is why public health matters.
If you could have dinner with any female scientist or public health worker, past or present, who would you choose and what would you ask them?
Lillian Wald….She is the reason I get to do what I do. My question would be, “What is it about this work that kept you coming back for more….because as nurses, we can make more money, doing ANY other type of nursing?” My guess is that her answer would be similar to mine, “Because it is real. There is no fluff. It is dirty, smelly, heartbreaking, joyful, and intensely satisfying.”
What do you like most about your work?
I am most satisfied when I am working directly with people, in any capacity. I love problem solving and working with patients and families to identify solutions that may be unorthodox. Twenty years has taught me to believe in the power of people to know what is best for their own lives, even if there is an easier, faster, way to get to the solution.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
I would love to be a speed reader combined with superhuman retention skills. Then I would know everything about anything that I wanted to know. World dominance would naturally occur, because I would relieve the world of disease and pestilence. Lillian Wald would be so proud.
What is the most important thing you have worked on at the health department?
Improving my skills and education so that I can be a better employee and a better nurse to my clients.
What do you think is our biggest public health challenge in the next 20/50/100 years?
Primarily mental health access. I am from Butte, though, which is home to the Berkely Pit, a mile-long reservoir of toxic water. Being from Butte and living in the shadow of the pit makes me always aware that we may not know what will be our biggest public health problem 50 years from now … just as five decades ago the people of Butte probably didn’t envision the current situation with the pit.
When did you know you wanted to work in public health?
When I enrolled in nursing school in 1997, but I have always had jobs in public health, so really, I think, since birth. Plus, I had Wonder Woman Underoos, being a child of the 1970’s, and this was probably the starting point for my quest for public health world dominance.
If you were not a nurse, what would you be doing?
Probably bouncing from job to job, and thinking deep thoughts about where my life is headed. Seriously, though, there has never been another option for me. I love nursing and would choose it again, even on the hard days. Nurses are privileged to share life’s most precious moments with people they barely know. Who wouldn’t want that?
Any advice for someone considering a career in public health?
If someone is considering public health, they have already made the decision. Just hire them already.