Family Medicine Clinic Providers Support Each Other in Obtaining Nursing's Highest Degree

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Diana Smith and Heather Wilson with the Greene County F

JEFFERSON, Iowa – Two Greene County Medical Center Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) recently completed a two-year journey, obtaining the highest nursing degree available, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Diana Smith in Family Medicine and Heather Wilson in Behavioral Health, worked at Greene County Medical Center in the past. Both left to advance their education and careers before returning to raise their families and serve their community.

“I’ve been a nurse for 25 years, the majority of that time I spent in labor and delivery,” says Wilson. “I originally worked at Greene County in 2013 in a clinic position and decided in 2015 to go back to school and further my education. So, I decided to go into mental health at that time. I was at Chamberlain for my bachelor’s and then went on to Maryville for my master’s degree.”

“I actually started at Greene County Medical Center in 2010,” Smith adds. “And I started here as a staff nurse, working in acute care, the ER, OB, Labor and Delivery, kind of all over, as we all do. I did that while I was finishing my master’s degree. I finished that in 2012 and when I graduated, I left the hospital here to get a little bit more experience. So, I practiced dermatology for a few years and ear, nose and throat medicine for about five years.”

Smith returned to the Family Medicine Clinic in 2018. After graduation, Wilson began pitching the idea of making Behavioral Health Services available in our region and returned in 2020. Both say helping friends and neighbors take care of themselves is the most gratifying part of their return

Wilson’s plan was to continue her education within five years of completing her master’s. She then learned Smith was also interested in pursuing a DNP degree. Smith says she has known for years she would be going back to school, saying it is a lot like family planning. “There’s a certain point and you just know your family is complete and you know that you’re not going to have any more kids so I was comparing it to that,” says Smith. “So each time I graduated and finished school, I was very proud of myself and happy where I was; but I knew I wasn’t quite done.”

In Iowa, Nurse Practitioners have full practice authority and can diagnose, treat and prescribe medications. In addition, nurses often focus on education and prevention. Wilson says the DNP degree builds on that aspect.  “What it does is it gives us a little bit more evidence-based practice knowledge. It helps us look at reviewing and research in a different way.”

Smith adds it helps them put research into action. “How do we get it from a study that was done in Europe, or wherever it may have been done, to our patients here in rural Iowa? The degree we just finished really helps to kind of narrow that down and make it so we can apply all those things and continue to do that as research continues to change and as medicine evolves, as it always does.”

Both are putting their education into practice. Wilson is working to eliminate the stigma associated with Behavioral Health. “Being open and honest with how we feel mentally should be just as equally discussed as how we feel physically. And so, just being able to bring some of that to the community and being able to realize it should be viewed the same. This is your whole health, your whole wellness that we talk about and not just bits and pieces of it,” she says.

Smith wants her patients to know she is there to help with any need they may have.  “I am a Family Nurse Practitioner, so I do see patients from birth throughout their entire life. I do have specific interests in dermatology and procedures and things of that nature. I also have a strong background in ear, nose and throat so I do a lot of ear, nose, throat, sinus type of things and procedures as well. But if there is any need that a patient has if there is any way, I am willing to help. If I can’t help, I can certainly find someone else that can.”

Even though Smith and Wilson have reached the pinnacle in nursing degrees, their education won’t stop here. Smith isn’t sure what degree she will pursue next, but is already scouting courses. Wilson won’t be searching for university programs, but will be seeking out therapy, pharmacology or other types of certifications.

In May of this year, Greene County Medical Center opened a Cosmetic Clinic. Smith treats patients in that clinic as well as in the Family Medicine Clinic.

To make an appointment with Smith or Wilson, call the Greene County Family Medicine Clinic at 515-386-0500.