A world of caring

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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Deb had planned to enter an LPN program following high school, but, instead, she graduated from a four-year nursing program. That was 25 years ago. For 18 of them, she was a licensed school nurse. Several years ago, the South Haven native knew it was time to move on. Jill played teacher when she was little, and knew that's what she wanted to be when she grew up. When she was 16, she started working as a nursing assistant in a Watkins nursing home. It was then that she knew she wanted to be a nurse. Mandy played doctor when she was a little girl. When she entered college, it was to study biology, which, she expected, would lead to pre-med. Midway through her freshman year, she switched to the nursing program. Besides sharing a love for the nursing profession and a passion to help others, Deb, Jill, and Mandy also share the same home and last name. Deb Libbesmeier, Jill and Mandy's mother, graduated with an M.A. in nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner degree from The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. It was a joyous time for her, the culmination of two years of non-stop study. As a high school junior, Deb worked as a nursing assistant. "I thought I'd be an LPN, but I applied too late and couldn't get in," she says. "It was for the AA nursing program (a two-year program) that I was not accepted because of not having done some of the prereqs in high school." Instead, she entered a four-year nursing program at the College of St. Teresa in Winona. "It was a great accident, but not the original plan." For 18 years, she worked as a school nurse. Halfway into her job, she knew she wanted to go back to school. "I would refer kids daily to their health care provider," she says, "then hear back that I'd figured that one out." A girlfriend encouraged her to apply to grad school. "You just know when it's time to go on. There's a reason we're all here, and you just have to listen and know where you should be." She adds, "From not knowing where I wanted to be then, now, 25 years later, I have a mission." She chose St. Scholastica because she knew several nurses who had gone there, and because it was a small, private school. "It connected with how I did my undergraduate work," Deb says. Deb loves geriatrics, and her goal is still to practice in a rural clinic setting. "I'm a small-town person and would like to stay in a small, non-metro area." With her master's degree, there are many more directions she can go as a family nurse practitioner, including geriatrics, and the sky is the limit. Another challenge lies ahead for Deb: a test for national certification. Early this spring, to get a head start on preparing for the all-important, 175-question test, she took a 2-1/2 day review course. She can choose from among three testing sites in the state. The test lasts three hours. Meanwhile, she continues to prepare. "My goal is to study a couple of hours a day, in half-hour blocks." Test questions will cover everything she's learned, to date, including earlier courses in anatomy and physiology. Until she passes the test, and for six months after her graduation, she's allowed to practice as a FNP with only her degree, but there are certain limitations, such as not being able to sign prescriptions. When she receives her certification, the institution she works for will handle submitting her credentials to their insurance companies, then Deb will be ready to practice as a certified nurse practitioner. To maintain her certification as a FNP, she'll have to complete continuing ed courses. To maintain her RN license, she'll also need continuing ed. "It feels right and scary to move on to a different level," Deb says. "I'm back to being a novice again in this new role. It's an exciting challenge, and I'm ready to move ahead." A day before Deb's graduation, daughter Jill graduated from St. Cloud State University's nursing program with a BSN and a minor in psychology. She expects to get her masters degree in two to five years. She does not want to become a nurse practitioner, instead she is deciding between getting a combination masters that would include a Masters of Science in Nursing and a Masters in Health Administration or becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist. Pretty much her entire life, Jill wanted to be a teacher. She always played the role of teacher when she and Mandy played school. "I was 100 percent sure I would be a teacher," she says. That all changed when Jill was 16. She saw a different side of life as a nursing assistant working in a Watkins nursing home. "From day one, I decided I wanted to be a nurse," she says. "It clicked at the nursing home. All of a sudden, I knew that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life." She's never looked back.  Like her mother, Jill took a review course early this spring in preparation for her state boards, and she'll sit for the test yet this summer. Before she joins the oncology staff at St. Cloud Hospital in September, Jill is taking the summer off. Last summer, she worked as an intern at Mayo's. She isn't sure just why she chose to specialize in oncology. Perhaps working with cancer patients, their families and friends instilled the desire to head in that direction. "When you get to know the patients and their family and friends, you can provide them with more holistic care." On April 11, Jill returned from an invaluable six-week experience in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where she did her senior nursing capstone, which is an immersion course and hands-on nursing. One of her teachers had asked her students if they would be interested in going to South Africa. When eight of them agreed, she put the trip together. It was Jill's second trip to that part of the world; the first time, two years ago, she toured clinics, hospitals and orphanages, learning about their health care system, but at the time, her group wasn't allowed hands-on experience. During this stay, she sent weekly reports home to her family, noting her day-to-day experience. In addition, she kept a personal journal that recorded how she felt at the time. Most of the time, she worked in the oncology department. Jill liked the experience, and can see a time when she may return to South Africa. "Conditions there are not great," she says. Deb's daughter Mandy just completed her sophomore year at the College of St. Benedict. When she was younger, she and Jill took turns playing doctor and school. As a freshman student at St. Ben's she'd chosen biology with the expectation of moving into pre-med. Mid-freshman year, she switched to the nursing program, and she's happy she did. "Being able to care for people and help them with difficulties, that's what appeals to me the most. It's a much better fit," she says. "Mom loved her job, and that definitely had an impact." In the year just past, Mandy carried an 18-credit per semester courseload. She hasn't started her clinicals in depth yet, but in the fall, she'll do labor and delivery, pediatric, and adult clinicals. "The hardest thing now is the heavy courseload," Mandy says. "If you're not doing nursing work, you're working on generals." She'll receive her BSN in May 2010. Though she took a course last summer, this year, she plans to relax a bit in preparation for her junior year, and enjoy her quarter horses, Buddy and Zeus. Her favorite is Buddy, a horse she bought when she was in sixth grade. Once she graduates, Mandy looks forward to working in her profession, but she's pretty sure she'll eventually study for her masters degree as a family nurse practitioner. Living in a household where three family members all seek degrees in the same profession, Jill admits it can get a little stressful at times. "We were all at different points in our nursing education," she says. "We've had a lot of discussions and helped each other out with homework," she says. Just not at dinnertime. "We try not to have gross discussions at the dinner table; my dad and brother don't like that!" Deb will soon live her dream as a family nurse practitioner. She hopes others, too, don't hold back and that they'll pursue their dream and follow it. She offers this advice. "Listen to your heart and soul and go for it." And she adds, obviously speaking from personal experience, and as a tribute to her own family, "Have a family that backs you." Of her two daughters, Deb says, "I'm very proud of my daughters for choosing such a