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One of the greats

Ehlert awarded statewide nursing honor

Angela Ehlert

A nurse at Van Diest Family Health Clinic was recently selected for a statewide honor which recognized her contributions to the profession and the local health care facility.

Angela Ehlert, RN, who serves as the health coach for the clinic and at Van Diest Medical Center, was selected as one of the 100 Great Iowa Nurses.

Each year, the 100 Great Iowa Nurses program identifies 100 outstanding nurses whose courage, competence, and commitment to patients and the nursing profession stand out above all others. The award recognizes nurses who have made meaningful, lasting contributions to their patients, colleagues and the nursing profession, and are viewed as mentors to other nursing professionals.

Amy McDonough, chief nursing officer at VDMC, said the process for selecting the 100 Great Iowa Nurses actually begins in the fall when nomination requests are sent out.

“I brought all of the nursing leaders together and we talked about who to nominate and Angela’s name definitely rose to the top,” McDonough said. “She’s an amazing nurse and she works so hard with the patients she works with.

The nomination for the award seeks to honor not only those outstanding nurses in an organization, but also those who have contributed to the profession of nursing. The people nominated are innovators in their field and are also professionals who share their knowledge outside of the organization.

“It’s not just the nurse or one particular story,” said Anna Anderson, quality director. “It’s kind of the entirety of their practice.

“For the eight to 10 of us in the room for the nomination, it was a pretty unanimous. We were all very excited to put Angela’s name forward.”

Ehlert has played a big part in building the health coaching program during her time with Van Diest.

“This was a new position that originated with Angela,” said Leigh Miller, clinic director. “Because of that, she’s really pioneered what health coaching means in our organization.

Miller said Ehlert works with patients who might need a little more personal care or who have more high risk conditions. She assists the patients with a variety of preventative care measures.

“What I’ve seen is amazing growth within the health coach program, with Angela and with the patients she’s managed,” Miller said. “This really signifies to me the contribution she’s made to her patients and to the organization.”

In addition to working with patients in the clinic setting, Ehlert also works with those who are hospitalized. She visits patients who may be transitioning back to home or to another facility, making sure they have the resources and education they need to be successful in their recovery.

Ehlert has been a nurse for 13 years and has been in the health coach position for the past five years. Previously, she worked in public health and nursing homes.

“My first job was in a nursing home and that’s what led me to want to pursue being a nurse,” the Webster City High School graduate said.

She said the current conditions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult for many of her patients to come in for appointments. She’s fielded numerous phone calls from patients who have concerns or questions.

“But they also call me to share good things that are happening,” she said.

Most days, she visits patients in the hospital and has a full schedule of patients in the clinic. She also conducts wellness visits with Medicare patients to do health risk assessments.

“I go through preventative services they are eligible for – things designed to help keep them healthy,” she said. “We also go through their daily living activities and find resources that can help them.”

She also helps patients develop advanced directives and living wills.

“It’s not like a normal office visit, because you might not talk about these things with your provider,” she said. “But we’ve been able to identify concerns that they may never have brought up to anyone before.”

Ehlert doesn’t give shots or start IV’s or some of the other duties that most people associate with nursing.

“I’m using my nursing skills in a different way. That’s why this award is really cool,” she said. “And it kind of highlights that there are so many different ways to be a nurse.”

In normal years, there would be a large celebration at the start of National Nurses Week to honor the new class of 100 Great Iowa Nurses. Unfortunately, this year the event was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s usually quite an event and it’s disappointing that Angela won’t have that experience,” McDonough said. Clinic and hospital officials hope to recognize Ehlert when the pandemic restrictions are eased.

“When you think about everything she does week to week, it’s not a surprise that she was recognized. Everything she does is really life-affecting to the patients that we work with. The impact is huge every day,” McDonough said.

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