Author Archives: Jennifer Kellner

Longest Tenured Employee at RCH

Kathi Schuster, CNO

Ringgold County Hospital’s longest tenured employee is Chief Nursing Officer, Kathi Schuster. Like many people with a passion for helping others, she knew from the time she was a freshman in high school that nursing was going to be her career. “My mother died of a heart attack when I was 12,” said Kathi. “It’s why I got into nursing.” In fact, she began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant at RCH before she even went to college.

She was accepted into the Methodist School of Nursing in Des Moines when she was a junior in high school. She decided to finish high school and enjoy her senior year before entering the program. “It was a three-year program that ran year-round,” she explained. “We only had three weeks off every August. When I graduated, I was a Registered Nurse. I chose nursing because of my experience with the nurses at Ringgold County Hospital. They obviously knew what they were doing, and I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be the best.” She added that she eventually did get into management and got another degree in business administration.

Her first nursing job was at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in pediatrics, where she had done her clinical training. Then she met her husband, who is from Mount Ayr, so she started looking at area hospitals. “I interviewed at other places, but I thought this was a better fit for me. I liked the direction this hospital was going. I liked the people. It was clear that everyone respected the nurses and worked as a team. Some other hospitals had a little more ‘stuff’ but the people weren’t as friendly.” It certainly has proven to be a good fit since she started at RCH in April 1982 and has never left!

According to Kathi, back then when she worked as a full-time RN, they did everything, “Emergency Room, Operating Room, Medical/Surgical, Obstetrics, we did it all! I loved it! My favorite was Obstetrics and the ER.” At the time, RCH was considered a Sole Community Provider Hospital and had 46 beds. “When I started, it was nothing to have both halls completely full. The rules have since changed significantly. We used to admit patients for things that are outpatient procedures now.”

After two years, Kathi was selected to help develop an entire program for the new Harold Hughes Center, a Chemical Dependency Unit. “I developed all the policies and procedures and assisted the Director of Nursing with a hospital-wide nursing standards and procedure manual.”

In 1988, Kathi was urged to apply for the Director of Nursing position at RCH. “There had been several people in the position, and it was clear we needed some stability,” she said. Again, Kathi made a career move that was a good fit. She remained Director of Nursing until 2005 when she was promoted to Chief Nursing Officer. “I’ve been responsible for all the nursing units: acute care, ER, surgical, out-patient,” she said. Over the years, she acquired additional departments including physical therapy, laboratory, radiology and the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic. “I’ve got very good managers!” Now her job is less clinical and more administrative, so she was pleased to pitch in and help during the Covid-19 pandemic. “It’s been kind of fun to get back to my roots!”

Kathi is proud of the orientation she’s developed for nurses new to RCH. “When I first started, we were expected to just jump in anywhere on the first day. I wanted to be sure that all of our nurses have advanced cardiac life support training. I implemented a policy that nurses have to work a year on the floor before working in the ER. I’m very proud of that.”

Technology has made the biggest changes at the hospital since Kathi started almost 40 years ago. “I actually think that having Electronic Health Records has helped,” she said. “It has standardized orders. In the past we had to go from memory. Things are now at our fingertips.”

Having such a long history in one place, Kathi has seen it all. One of the most significant milestones was helping design the current facility, which was built in 2009. “Our CEO Gordon Winkler really shined when we were building the new hospital,” said Kathi. “He allowed everyone to have a voice and it showed a lot of teamwork.”

After such a long and illustrious career, Kathi’s compassion and empathy are demonstrated when asked about the highlights. “Seeing other nurses grow, be successful, and move up in their own careers is my favorite part of the job.”

Celebrating 70 Years of Service

Caring Is Our Calling!

In 1949, a small group of committed citizens had the vision and the wherewithal to build a hospital in Ringgold County, and raised $26,453 in just two weeks. Exceeding the original goal of $21,000, the fundraising proved to the hospitals’ Board of Trustees that the people were sincere and enthusiastic in their determination to provide hospital facilities in the county.  

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead 

In April 1951, their dream became a reality when Ringgold County Hospital was completed and opened its doors for the first time with 21 employees. The timing was excellent, as seven babies, one girl and six boys, were born in the first week of operation. The first adult patient arrived via the Emergency Room and received a “five-dollar bouquet” presented by the Mount Ayr Post Office. The cash was courtesy of Rhodes Funeral Home which had promised the award to the first hospital patient.

Much has changed over 70 years. The hospital facility itself was expanded and renovated multiple times to accommodate new technology and new services. Under the leadership of CEO Gordon Winkler, the current hospital was completed in 2009. The state-of-the-art facility was designed to accommodate departments ranging from physical therapy to medical imaging, visiting physician’s clinics, a lab and pharmacy. The Mount Ayr Medical Clinic is now located within the hospital, allowing clinic patients easy access to all hospital services.

The committed team of medical professionals keeps up to date with today’s technologies, from 3-D imaging to electronic medical records. But the hands-on commitment to quality care for all patients is the same as it was in 1951. Ringgold County Hospital may not have changed the entire world, but it certainly has had a positive impact on the residents of southwest Iowa for the past 70 years.

Find a doctor near me

Since 1998, the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic has enjoyed a reputation for quality care so good, patients travel from outside Ringgold County just to be seen here. If you’re searching for a doctor near me or you, you’ll want to check out all the family practice providers that offer exceptional care locally. Located within Ringgold County Hospital, The Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic offers you convenient access to other services like laboratory testing, medical imaging, specialty physicians, and more.

One of the biggest shifts in healthcare has been a focus on lifelong health and wellness rather than only treating patients when they’re sick. That’s where the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic is excelling. “We have a tremendous staff at the clinic,” says CEO Gordon Winkler. “We’ve always had excellent physicians and nurses. With the advent of physician assistants and nurse practitioners, we’ve been able to attract and keep very talented people in our small community. The Mt Ayr Medical Clinic has a tenured team who speak highly of each other, the clinic, and their patients. 

Bruce Ricker, D.O. recommends taking preventative steps to improve your long-term health

“With good health, you can make a big difference for a long period of time,” says Katie Willcox, D.O.

Scott Bland, D.O. ~ Arriving July/Aug 2021


Erin Leonard, ARNP was born and raised in Mt. Ayr, IA. She joined the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic in August 2017. She enjoys caring for the people throughout their lifespans, from birth to advanced age.

Ron Schafer, PA-C grew up in Mt. Ayr and got his start in EMS. Marcy Gregg, ARNP is from Clearfield, IA and began her career as an acute care nurse. Both providers joined Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic around 2000.

Denise Coleman, ARNP was born and raised in Bedford, IA. “I’m dedicated to providing the best care. Our patients become our family. I love getting them well and keeping them well.”

Prior to 2020, the population of Ringgold County was fairly stable, however, the number of patients being seen in the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic has been increasing. Winkler attributes the clinic’s growth to the excellent quality of care provided. “Our patients know that we have good, local health care. They trust us, and don’t feel a need to drive out of town to find doctors who are capable of taking care of them.”

Ron Schafer, Pa-C agrees. “We take a holistic approach to health care.”

Call to connect with your partner in health 641-464-4470

Noble Nurses: Wheeler and Johnson

We are celebrating the hard work, compassion, and dedication of nurses everywhere. Here at Ringgold County Hospital and Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic, our thanks go out to all the nurses in our hospital and clinic who care for our community every day. Each month, we’re profiling two more outstanding nurses for their contributions.

Kelsey Wheeler, LPN


Jayla Johnson, RN

Kelsey Wheeler was an athlete growing up in Gravity, IA. “My hometown is so small that you’ll miss it if you blink!” she said. She and her three siblings went to Bedford schools, where she played softball, volleyball and ran track. She headed to Nebraska Wesleyan for college, intending to become an athletic trainer. “I tried softball for a little bit in college. I wanted to follow the sports thing through. I really don’t know what inspired me, since science wasn’t my thing in school.”

Kelsey learned about nursing through personal experience. “My mom has MS, and she was receiving treatment in a hospital. I started talking to the nurses there and realized that appealed to me more than athletic training.” So, she switched schools and career paths and headed to North Central Missouri College to get a nursing degree. She graduated with her LPN in 2014.

Following graduation, she moved back in with her mother to care for her, which led to a job with a home health agency. She cared for her mother as well as other patients. “It was a great introduction into a nursing career,” said Kelsey.

When she learned about an opening at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic, she applied. “I liked the idea of the routine, and the Monday-to-Friday schedule.”

Kelsey loves the day-to-day interaction with the clinic patients. “I feel as if they’re my patients. I’ve been able to learn the whole community. Growing up in Bedford, there was such a strong sports rivalry. It’s been great to see that everyone here in Mount Ayr is so caring. It’s a nurturing and loving community.”

With a five-month-old daughter, she is planning to stay at the Clinic for the foreseeable future. “The Mount Ayr Medical Clinic is my second family!”


Jayla Johnson got some practical advice from her mother which set her on a nursing career path. “I was leaning towards becoming a beautician,” she said. “My mom reminded me that were at least 10 beauticians in the county, and that I needed a profession that would guarantee a job. So, I took a health occupations class while I was in high school. At the same time, I started a job as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the nursing home. I realized that I liked taking care of people!”

She didn’t waste any time. Two days after high school graduation, she began her studies at Southwestern Community College and earned her LPN in 1998. She continued to work at the Clearview Nursing Home and oversaw a walking program and did wound care. “I really liked wound care and taking care of the elderly,” said Jayla. “It has always been my favorite. They have all kinds of stories to tell.”

Although she loved her job, she realized that she wasn’t going to move up any further until she got her degree as a registered nurse. So, she “took a leap of faith”, quit her job, cashed out her 401K, and went back to school full time. “I leaned on my significant other and my family for support. I wanted to focus on school.” It took her about 14 months, and she became an RN.

After graduation, she started at the hospice in Mount Ayr. “They taught me a lot. I enjoyed building the bonds with the entire family, not just the patients.” When a friend recommended she apply for an opening at the Ringgold County Hospital Visiting Physicians Clinic, she hesitated, thinking she wouldn’t be good at it. But eventually, she was convinced and is so happy in her job. “I love the variety of all the clinics,” she said. “I still trim nails, and I love that.” She does all the clinic prep work, pulling labs and notes for the doctors. She does the scheduling and assists the physicians during the actual clinics. And, she’s backup for cardiac rehab and stress testing.

The favorite part of her job is seeing all the people and caring for them. “I like knowing they can count on me.” And like her work in hospice, she cares for the entire family helping them navigate through the patient’s healthcare. “I create a game plan and make the necessary referrals and schedule appointments.”

Jayla enjoys the variety of work in the Clinic. “Going back to school and getting my RN has really paid off,” she said. “I only wish I had done it sooner!”

Early pediatric intervention improves outcomes

Pediatrician Tabitha Wilson, M.D.

Parents gazing into the face of a baby often only see perfection. As the babies grow into toddlers, they can amaze and amuse their caregivers with their antics. But alongside all the cuteness, children’s development needs to be monitored to make sure they’re on track. “Well-child checkups are so important,” says pediatrician Tabitha Wilson, MD. “If a developmental issue is discovered, the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.”

Dr. Wilson recommends well checks starting at 3-5 days, and then regularly until the child is two years old. After that, annual checkups are important. “Every child is different. But the key is early intervention. If we can catch a speech difficulty when they’re age two, we can have it fixed before they even start school.” She added that the most common cause of language issues is hearing loss which parents may not be aware of, but that can be discovered by a doctor.

“We can check a child’s vision as early as age three,” said Dr. Wilson. “It seems young, but we can make a big difference if we find a problem early.” Along with hearing and vision, it’s important to keep an eye on dental health as well. “Babies should see a dentist as soon as they have their first tooth! Believe it or not, some preschoolers have dental issues.”

Most parents are aware of the need for immunizations along with developmental screenings. “Babies need some immunization during every visit for their first 18 months,” she said. “If the immunizations get off schedule, it is a problem. There needs to be a certain amount of time between doses to be effective. Some vaccines, like for Rota virus, can’t be given after eight months.”

Iowa has some of the highest lead levels of any state in the US. So Iowa Public Health recommends all children be tested for lead. “It’s a simple finger prick to get enough blood for a test. But if high lead levels are found, it can cause brain damage and lower the child’s IQ if not treated. So, here in Iowa, it’s important.”

Obesity is a nationwide problem, and increasingly children have high cholesterol and high lipid levels. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening children for high cholesterol. If it’s elevated, we start with diet and exercise changes before putting them on medication. Over the past year, kids have gained weight. They’re getting less exercise than normal due to Covid restrictions.”

It’s not just weight Dr. Wilson checks on. She makes sure that weight and growth are appropriate. Neither overweight nor underweight are healthy. “Kids should grow around two inches a year. The right balance is critical for brain development.”

“Parents may think their child is healthy and wonder why they should bring him to the doctor. But there are subtle things that I can see that parents don’t. It’s worth the small effort!”

Dr. Tabitha Wilson is available every Monday & Thursday. Call (641) 464-4470 to schedule an appointment at the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic

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