Author Archives: Jennifer Kellner

I’m pregnant, now what?!

Is your family growing this year? Expecting parents, and those who plan to be in the future, are fortunate that the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic provides family planning services including prenatal care. Join Katie Willcox, D.O. and Nurse Practitioner Erin Leonard for a short virtual question and answer session on March 2 to learn more about what comes after you find out you’re having a baby. This session will be recorded.


Family planning & pregnancy

Whether you want to discuss birth control options or are planning for a baby, Mount Ayr Medical Clinic is here for your family.


Monitor your progress locally

During the first 34 weeks of pregnancy, you can monitor baby’s progress with Katie Willcox, D.O. or Erin Leonard, ARNP at the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic.


Deliver with Tami Fahnlander, DO

Prenatal care is transitioned to Dr. Fahnlander with Women’s Health Services in Des Moines at 34 weeks to prepare for delivery.

Tabitha Wilson, MD is a native of Bedford, IA.

Complete Family Care

This partnership is ideal for pregnant women living in Mt. Ayr and surrounding communities. It limits the number of trips to Des Moines while providing comprehensive care throughout a pregnancy. Once a baby is born, both mother and child can return to the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic to continue receiving family care or you can choose for your baby to be seen by pediatrician Tabitha Wilson, MD.

Submit a Question, OR Register for the virtual Q & A session on March 2, 2021

Nurse Spotlight: Caring Is Our Calling!

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


Kris Swank grew up in Corning, IA, not far from Mount Ayr. Around 2003, she began working at Iowa Select Farms. “It was fun for a while,” she said. “But it started taking its toll on my lungs and it was really physically demanding.” After 11 years, she decided she needed to make a change for health reasons.

Knowing that she needed a career she could count on, she decided to pursue nursing. In 2012 she started nursing school at Southwestern Community College. “I graduated in 2014, and when I saw an opening at Ringgold County Hospital in 2015, I applied. I’ve been here ever since!”

Kris started as a nurse on the acute care floor, spent some time in the Emergency Room, and then moved into the surgical department. “I really liked surgery when I was doing my rotations in nursing school, so it had always been my goal,” she explained.

In a typical day, she cares for patients when they come in and gets them prepped for surgery. “We prepare necessary paperwork, complete assessments, obtain vital signs, start IV’s, and administer medications. We also follow our patients through surgery as well as into recovery and make sure they have everything they need.”

She loves the challenges that surgical nursing brings. “We’ve been busy. Some of it is related to Covid, but some of it is because we also provide infusion services from simple injections to administering chemotherapy.  We have also added cataract surgeries and a pain management clinic!” She doesn’t prefer one kind of surgery over another, though. She enjoys caring for her patients and making sure they’re comfortable.

Kris has a difficult time pinpointing her favorite part of working at Ringgold County Hospital. But like many others on the nursing staff, it all comes back to her coworkers. “They’re the best!”


Kate Couch got her start and fell in love with nursing during high school at an assisted living facility. Her mother alerted her that there was an opening, so she interviewed and got the job. “Until then, I really had no idea that I was interested in geriatric care,” she admitted. “It was a good introduction to nursing. You become really familiar with that select group of residents. You develop relationships and bonds. It’s very rewarding to see how you’re appreciated.”

After graduating from Bedford High School, Kate Couch went to Southwestern Community College to earn her nursing degree. She graduated in 2011. “When you live in a rural area, nursing school is a good option,” she said. After graduation, she continued to work at Vintage Park Assisted Living. Once her first child was born, she moved to St. Francis Family Health Care in Maryvillle. After her second child came along, she spent some time at home caring for her children before joining the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic in 2015. The Clinic has been a good fit for the mother of three, (with another due in July!)

Awesome coworkers and the ability to build long term relationships with her patients is what Kate Couch loves most about her job as a nurse at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic. “It’s overall a really rewarding job,” said Kate. “We are all focused on what we need to do to keep everyone healthy.”

Like all healthcare workers, Kate has seen a lot of changes since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Things are starting to look up and get back to normal. Everyone is doing what they need to do now. At the beginning, many people didn’t take it seriously, but when it got to us, it opened up peoples’ eyes.”

Kate enjoys being part of the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic team. Along with her coworkers and patients, she appreciates being trusted by the medical providers. “Because we’re trusted, our patients trust us.”

COVID Vaccination

Ringgold County Hospital is encouraging everyone who is interested in being vaccinated for COVID-19 to contact Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic at 641-464-4470 or  Ringgold County Public Health at 641-464-0691.

As of Monday, April 5, 2021, all Iowans age 12 and above are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Those age 12-17 can receive the Pfizer vaccine. Iowans age 18 and older can have the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. 

Local public health departments, health care providers and pharmacies are working hard to vaccinate eligible Iowans as quickly as possible. Your patience during this time is appreciated. As vaccine supply increases, more appointments will be available and, eventually, every Iowan will be able to be vaccinated. IDPH remains in close contact with our federal partners to communicate Iowa’s need for additional vaccines.




Heart Health & Cholesterol Guide

Eric Martin, M.D.

Cardiologist Eric Martin, MD encourages you to keep your heart beating strong by following these healthy heart tips!

Improve your blood pressure: Have your blood pressure checked frequently by your doctor and keep a record so you can identify and track changes.

Live Smoke Free: Smoking narrows your blood vessels which can increase your blood pressure.

Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight makes your heart work harder causing high blood pressure.

Eat less sodium: Eat less than 2300 milligrams of sodium a day.

Be more active: Exercise can help lower your blood pressure and your weight. Aim for 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.

Manage the stress in your life: You will always have some stress, but learn to control it.

Learn to relax: When you relax, your blood vessels relax too.

Take blood pressure medicine: If your doctor prescribes it, take it!

Know your numbers and understand your results: Don’t let your numbers be a mystery. Know them and track them to keep up with your progress and so you can watch for any changes.

Total cholesterol
Best: less than 200
Borderline high: 200-239
High: 240 or higher


LDL (Bad) cholesterol
Best: less than 100
Near best: 100-129
Borderline high: 130-159
High: 160-189
Very high: 190 or higher

HDL (Good) cholesterol
Low: less than 40 for men,
less than 50 for women
Good: 40-59
Very good: 60 or higher

Normal: less than 150
Borderline high: 150-199
High: 200-499
Very high: 500 or higher


Personal Goal Becoming Reality

Melissa Friedrich, CRNA

Melissa is like most healthcare professionals. She simply wants to help patients feel better. But her patients often experience the kind of chronic pain that is debilitating and keeps them from living normal lives. “It’s so hard when patients have pain and they feel like nothing can be done,” she said. “I have friends and family who have suffered. It’s my personal goal to help them and give something back to my community.”

In pursuit of that goal, Melissa is embarking on a year-long journey that will combine academic instruction and hands-on clinical training. At the conclusion of her training, she’ll be certified in Nonsurgical Pain Management and will have earned her NSPM-C. The credential is offered only to nurse anesthetists and validates their advanced subspecialty knowledge.

Melissa is already a Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and works full time at Ringgold County Hospital. “About 85-90% of anesthesia in rural hospitals is provided by nurse anesthetists,” explained Melissa. “I came back to my hometown because I believe that patients deserve the same level of care here as in big cities. We’re keeping our care here.”

Ringgold County Hospital opened a Pain Management Clinic in November 2020. The clinic is staffed by RCH nurse anesthetist Melissa Friedrich and visiting nurse anesthetist Brian Jacobs. Melissa explained that by establishing the clinic, patients experiencing pain can be treated holistically, using a wide variety of approaches, not just by prescribing narcotics. “We’ll start with a full assessment to determine what’s causing the pain. Patients may need to change their eating habits, exercise, stop smoking, manage their weight, or work with a physical therapist to strengthen different muscles. There are a lot of options besides putting them on a narcotic and sending them out the door.”

Brian Jacobs, MS, CRNA, NSPM-C, Board Certified in Pain Management and Fellowship trained, joins Melissa Friedrich, current anesthesia provider at Ringgold County Hospital

“Pain management may also include establishing realistic goals,” added Melissa. “Then we give them the encouragement and the tools to help themselves heal.”

The Pain Management Clinic and Melissa’s training are results of a partnership with Midwest Integrated Pain Care in Des Moines. Brian Jacobs, MS, CRNA, NSPM-C, is Board Certified in Pain Management and Fellowship trained. He’ll be working closely with Melissa at the clinic and in other sites outside of Mt. Ayr. “Brian will be here once a month, and together we’ll see patients. I’m learning from him.” She’s appreciative of the opportunity that Ringgold County Hospital is giving her to train and establish the Clinic.

Appointments are being accepted now. Patients can visit with their primary care provider or call the clinic directly at 641-464-4433.

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