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Katie Smith: Coaching is her passion

Katie Smith, RN is excited about being a health coach

Would you want to learn football from a coach who never played? Of course not! We all want to be coached by people who understand the game, its challenges, and our own abilities. Which is why Katie Smith, the soon-to-be health coach at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic believes she’s found her ideal role. “I’ve struggled with my weight, anemia, thyroid issues,” she explained. “I’m just like everyone else! I’m not this super-healthy person who’s naturally thin. I have to work on all of it.” Being able to relate to her patients makes Katie a great fit for the Health Coach role. “I like the preventative care aspect of nursing,” she said. “My focus is on wellness and how the mind, body, and spirit all work together. I say, let’s catch your high blood pressure now, before it gets really bad and you end up in the hospital. I enjoy keeping people healthy.”

A registered nurse, Katie is from Des Moines, and went to school and worked there in the Mercy Hospital System. After her mother moved to the Mount Ayr area, Katie started spending time here. “I was a single mom when my mom moved here. She was traveling to Des Moines on weekends to watch my daughter while I worked as a nurse. After a while, I moved here, and I commuted back to Des Moines to work.” She started going to school events, like football games, and just fell in love with the community. “I like that it’s laid back, there are no traffic lights, everyone knows your name, and everyone helps you out,” she said. “I wanted my daughter to grow up here.” So even though there were no job openings at Ringgold County Hospital, she put in an application and waited. In 2014, she got a call and was offered a job at RCH. A year later, she moved from the acute nursing team to the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic where she’s been for about four years. When Katie started college, she had three areas of interest: nursing, helping juvenile offenders, and psychology. “I decided to become a nurse so I could combine my interests.” She worked as a psych nurse, a cardiac nurse, and as an RN in acute care, so she’s seen and learned a lot. In her new role, she’ll have plenty of patient interaction as she works to keep people healthy and try to keep them out of the hospital. “When I was working on the [acute] floor at RCH I started training to run a 5K,” she said. “Then I did a half marathon. And then I ran a whole marathon! That’s when I fell in love with nutrition, wellness, and exercise. It all ties together! When I saw that the Health Coach position was open, I jumped on it. I have all kinds of ideas. I’m so excited!” Katie finished her Health Coach training in late March. (It was postponed due to inclement weather.) She anxious to dive in and get going. “It’s the perfect next step in my career!”

To make an appointment with Katie Smith, RN call 641-464-4533.

New Emergency Room Team

The residents served by Ringgold County Hospital are fortunate. Although no one wants to end up in an Emergency Room, if you find yourself there, you’ll discover it’s staffed by a team of professionals who love their work. Three board-certified physicians and a physician’s assistant share the shifts to ensure there’s care for any emergency situation, 24-hours a day.

Angie Kerchner, M.D.

Dr. Angie Kerchner is the Emergency medical director who assembled the current team. “I’ve worked in a lot of rural hospitals in Iowa,” said Dr. Kerchner. “Most of them hire outside contractors to work in emergency rooms in 24-hour shifts. The hospitals don’t know the physicians well, and the doctors don’t get to know the community. When I met with (Ringgold County Hospital CEO) Gordon Winkler, we talked about a more permanent team that could serve as an extension of the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic family practice. I’ve seen a couple of other hospitals using the same model and it’s been successful for everyone involved.”

Dr. Kerchner herself was one of the ER physicians who came to RCH as a contractor. “I’m board certified in family medicine, but I’ve always worked in the ER,” she said. “I fell in love with this community and the hospital when I started in 2016. I was looking for a permanent position, and the hospital had a need that I could fill.” She became the medical director last summer and started building the team. She likes the flexibility in scheduling that ER work allows. She, her husband, and her three teenagers recently relocated to nearby Lenox. “We happened across Dr. Ferhut by chance,” she explained. “We were short on physicians for a time last summer. He came in as a contractor and everyone fell in love with his personality and his bedside skills. We wanted to grab him before anyone else did. He’s a great fit for us.”

Haroon Ferhut, M.D.

An RCH employee since October, Dr. Haroon Ferhut agrees that it’s a great fit, although he never guessed that he’d be working in a small town in Iowa. He grew up in Virginia and California, attended medical school on an island in the Caribbean, and completed his residency rotations all over the United States. He worked in cities like Decatur, GA, Hollywood, FL, Brooklyn and Chicago before he landed in Kansas City for his final rotation. “I got used to packing and traveling!” he admits. He currently lives in Kansas City and commutes to Mount Ayr for his shifts in the ER. Dr. Ferhut’s favorite things about Ringgold County Hospital are the patients and the staff. “Every time I step in the door, I have a smile on my face,” he said. “I get along with everyone and I have a good rapport with my patients. I want to continue to build those relationships.”

Patti Fasbender, D.O.

The newest member of the Emergency Room team is Dr. Patti Fasbender. She was discovered by Dr. Kerchner on Facebook. Both women belong to a closed group called Iowa Lady Physicians. Dr. Kerchner posted the job opening there and immediately connected with Dr. Fasbender. “Although I had a lot of physicians interested in the position, she fit perfectly!” remarked Dr. Kerchner. A mother of three adult children, being a doctor is a second career for Dr. Fasbender. “I followed in my mom’s footsteps and was a teacher for 12 years,” she said. She attended medical school and completed her residency in Des Moines. “I’ve been a doctor for 13 years now!” She just bought a home in Mt. Ayr and feels a more permanent part of the community. “I grew up on a dairy farm in a rural community. This is familiar to me.” Dr. Fasbender loves being a doctor. “I believe we are all put here to do good work. This is a way I choose to do good.” Her background in science and as a teacher still come into play daily. “As a scientist, I have to figure out what’s wrong with each patient. After that, most of what I do is teach. I teach patients how to care for themselves to get better.” Like her teammates, Dr. Fasbender has been very impressed with the hospital staff. “The level of cooperation is incredible. All the doctors are warm and welcoming.”

Ron Schafer, PA-C

The three ER physicians, who are relatively new to RCH, join Ron Shafer, PA, who has been an Emergency Medical Technician at the hospital since 1990 and a physician assistant since 2000. “Ron has a lot of emergency medicine experience,” said Dr. Kerchner. “He’s a great member of the team and a great person.” Ron is also certified in wound care and provides care for chronic, difficult-to-treat wounds.

Taylin Vogel and Winkey

The fifth member of the ER team has never attended medical school. In fact, because of her young age, she hasn’t had any formal training at all. Even so, she goes on rounds and visits patients and successfully gets them to smile. “Winkey” belongs to Dr. Kerchner and comes to work with her regularly. “Just recently we had a little girl who needed stitches in her toe,” said Dr. Kerchner. “It’s actually pretty painful and we normally have to sedate young patients. The little patient just asked
for Winkey to be with her. She didn’t cry or wiggle and was great through the whole procedure!” The entire Emergency team, including Winkey, is pleased to be at Ringgold County Hospital. As Dr. Fasbender noted, “We’re all happy to be here. We’re getting great feedback.”

Partnership to Provide Prenatal Care

Katie Willcox, DO; Tami Fahnlander, DO; Erin Leonard, ARNP

The staff at the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic is excited
to announce an extension of their services to include prenatal care. Through 34 weeks of pregnancy, expectant mothers will be cared for at the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic by Katie Willcox, D.O. and Nurse Practitioner Erin Leonard.

At 34 weeks, care is provided by Tami Fahnlander, D.O. and Associates with Women’s Health Services in Des Moines. “We start coordinating with Dr. Fahnlander when a mom is 20-weeks pregnant,” explained Dr. Willcox. “So, when we transfer her care, we’ve been working together for quite some time. It makes a smooth transition possible.”

Tami Fahnlander, D.O.

The 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 come right back to the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic to continue receiving family care.

Dr. Tami Fahnlander graduated from Simpson College in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry. She received her medical degree in 2004 from Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical Center. In 2008, she graduated from the residency program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria and returned to Iowa to begin her medical career. Dr. Fahnlander is a Board Certified Physician at Women’s Health Services.

Outreach Focuses on Concussions

Along with all the good work going on inside the Rehab Department, Director Jill Ehlen and the entire staff believe in the importance of community involvement and outreach. An important initiative this fall has been pre-concussion cognitive testing for all middle and high school athletes. “Every athlete takes a 30-minute cognitive test to get a baseline,” explained Nate Greisen, PTA. “If they get a concussion, they take the test again, so we can compare the results.”

The team is hitting it hard and educating both students and their parents to make them aware of the protocols for getting back into the game. The high school’s athletic director has made the testing mandatory for all athletes. Nate adds that, “People are finally understanding that concussions are traumatic head injuries.”

RCH Launches Simultaneous Dispatch

When a patient is experiencing major trauma, time is critical. The minutes it takes to get someone from the scene of an accident or medical emergency can mean the difference between life and death. To help speed the process, Ringgold County Hospital has launched a system called Simultaneous Dispatch. “When Dispatch sends out the ambulance to a scene that has the chance of having major trauma, they will also put the Life Net helicopter on standby,” explained Amy Shields AEMT, CPhT. “When we put the helicopter on standby right away, they have time to do all the safety checks, weather checks, and everything they need to do before they can take off. They get this done while the ambulance is responding.” EMS is trained to assess patients. When they arrive on the scene, they will do a quick assessment and then let dispatch know if the helicopter is needed or not. Although a helicopter is not required for every situation, having it on standby and ready to go saves precious minutes when it is required. Amy continued, “From a medical standpoint, it gets patients to the most appropriate facility faster. If you have a trauma patient with serious or multiple injuries that require surgery or other services not available here at Ringgold County Hospital, it gets them where they need to go faster.”

Calling the helicopter while the ambulance is being dispatched is now an automatic process. It’s just one more way the medical professionals at Ringgold County Hospital are improving patient services and saving lives.

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