Rural healthcare has unique challenges, often very different than healthcare systems in more urban locations. Throw in a global pandemic and those challenges may become even more intensified. This week’s SDAHO Healthcare Hero, Melissa Davis, nurse practitioner, knows first-hand what it is like serving in a rural community. Melissa is employed with Horizon Health Care’s Aurora County Community Health Center in Plankinton. Her colleagues say she goes above and beyond for her patients, which is why Melissa is selected as our next healthcare hero, a campaign designed to recognize and celebrate healthcare professionals across South Dakota.
Melissa has worked in healthcare for over 20 years and has been with Horizon Health Care in Plankinton since 2013. Early in her career Melissa worked as a traveling nurse and appreciates the different healthcare systems. “I really like working here and in a rural community we can see everybody. It does not matter about your insurance or if you are on a sliding scale, you can come here and get cared for. I really appreciate that.” Nominated by her colleagues, they say Melissa reminds them of healthcare professionals from years ago.
“She reminds me of back in the olden days coming and going with house calls in a horse and buggy.” – Vicki Kranig MDS/RN Aurora Brule Care and Rehab
Melissa was not raised in South Dakota – but she would say she got here as fast as she could. “All my family is from South Dakota, but I grew up in San Diego, my dad was in the military. Most of my family is from Plankinton and coming back here was like coming home.” Melissa attended the University of South Dakota, where she met her husband who was in nursing school at the time. There she graduated with an associate degree in nursing. She went back to earn her bachelor’s degree and then graduated with her nurse practitioner degree. Early in her career, Melissa was a traveling nurse in Minnesota but eventually decided she wanted to be near family so Melissa, her husband and three children moved to Plankinton. “They accepted me like I was a local, it is an amazing small town. In the beginning people would tell me they babysat my mom or grew up with my parents. I love it, people have been so welcoming.” As a young child Melissa remembers wanting to be helpful and be a part of people’s lives which is what drove her to a career in medicine. Preventative medicine is one of the areas Melissa focuses on with her patients. “I am a huge proponent of preventative healthcare, if you can find something before it is too late that is my goal. I just want to help people and this avenue was the best way to do that.”
Those who work with Melissa say she has a heart of gold and does so much for rural healthcare and small towns. “If a patient is not doing well, she will personally squeeze them into her already tight schedule. I cannot thank her enough for the support she has offered my facility, town, community members and most importantly our elderly who have been tragically affected by COVID- 19.” – Vicki Krangi MDS/RN Aurora Brule Care and Rehab.
Melissa says her clinic has always been busy – but COVID-19 brought more challenges as it is the only clinic in a half hour radius that had quick testing capabilities. “There were days we crammed people in because we were going to make it work. I don’t want to tell people no, that could be me or my family and the more we test, the more people are educated and can quarantine if needed.” Melissa and her team ran several COVID-19 clinics, visited patients in their cars if needed and went the extra mile to keep patients out of the hospital. “When it got bad and hospitals would not accept patients and they needed oxygen, we ordered home oxygen, we provided patients with the antibiotics they needed, and we were able to keep people out of the hospital and help them heal at home.” Melissa’s colleagues say when testing for the virus first started, Melissa did everything in her power to make sure people were being tested. “My facility did not have the ability to test when testing first started. Melissa and her team stepped up and came over and tested all 50 residents with the greatest smile on her face. She has earned our local support but more importantly our respect.” – Vicki Kranig MDS/RN/ Aurora Brule Care and Rehab.
Melissa credits her staff for the many successes that so many in the community see. When asked how she feels about being called a healthcare hero, Melissa says, “I can say the staff that work in my clinic are the heroes. The people that clean the clinic, answer phones, the nurses, other providers that work here and CNA’s, they are the absolute heroes. If we did not have this team here, we would not have anything.”
SDAHO would like to congratulate Melissa Davis for being a healthcare hero. Thank you and all the healthcare professionals for the work you do every day. Do you know a healthcare hero? Click here to nominate them to be a featured hero!