Healthcare in rural America can look very different than what we see in an urban community. Often healthcare professionals in small communities wear more than one hat, which is the case for this week’s SDAHO Healthcare Hero. Congratulations to Heather Messer, the Lab Supervisor and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator with Douglas County Memorial Hospital (DCMH) in Armour, South Dakota. The Healthcare Hero campaign is designed to recognize and celebrate healthcare professionals across the state.
Heather started her career over 20 years ago working for the Douglas County Memorial Hospital. It was one of the first jobs she applied for out of college. “I was lucky enough they took a chance on me, and I have been here ever since, and I have loved every minute of it.” Heather started as a lab tech and worked her way into a supervisor position. She would then take over the emergency preparedness program. Her colleagues say Heather embodies the mission of Douglas County Memorial Hospital. “Our mission here is ‘Hands that Heal…Hearts that Care’. Heather represents this slogan fully every day in her work. She is simply a beautiful soul.” Loretta Bryan – SDAHO & DCMH
Heather is originally from Broken Bow, Nebraska. She attended Mount Marty College in Yankton and did her clinical work in Des Moines. Heather grew up enjoying science and when she realized that a career in healthcare offered an opportunity to combine science and make a difference in peoples lives, the decision to become a healthcare professional was an easy one.
South Dakota is the only state that Heather has worked in, she says working for an independent hospital is fulfilling and the people have always been welcoming. “I love serving the people of South Dakota, they’ve always made me feel at home.” Living in Armour was a big adjustment after doing clinical work in Des Moines, but Heather has grown to love her community and the people she serves. “I know I am going to see these people at church, at the grocery store and at the post office. I know I am going to run into them, and their family and I get the sense that they trust me, and I want to do good by them.” Through the years Heather has become the go-to person for research questions from her team when a practitioner is trying to diagnose a patient or come up with a treatment plan. “I like researching testing options for providers that have patients with unique circumstances. I like making a difference behind the scenes.”
COVID-19 was not immune to rural America including Armour. For the lab, this meant Heather would bring testing in-house, which also meant conducting tests on a timely basis. “Throughout the pandemic, Heather led many Emergency preparedness meetings and led the Douglas County Memorial Hospital team in fighting the virus. She put in many hours coordinating the efforts for the team.” Loretta Bryan – SDAHO & DCMH When it came to emergency preparedness, it was a difficult year. Even though Heather and her team trained, and they drilled to prepare for all types of emergencies, Heather says she still hoped and prayed it would never happen – but it did. “It was very challenging leading our facility Incident Command Team during the COVID-19 Response. Assisting with new policies, patient workflows, staff education, patient education and PPE to name a few. COVID-19 was the most difficult year I’ve ever had in my healthcare career.” Even today, Heather gets very emotional talking about the pandemic. “I don’t want to talk about COVID because I’m afraid I will cry; it was a very hard time.” Heather says in the early months, everyone was so hesitant to unnecessarily touch a patient. However, Heather recognized that patients needed to be touched and she was able to bring touch back into the clinic after a few months of the pandemic, because she said it was the right thing to do.
Like many healthcare leaders, Heather is quick to recognize her colleagues when she is applauded for her work. “I think it’s important to remember, it’s not just the patient care staff that make a difference. It’s the maintenance crew, the housekeepers, the billing staff, it’s everyone. This team is so massive and made it possible to have a positive patient interaction and a good outcome. It’s a whole team effort.”
Heather Messer thank you for all you do and congratulations on being a SDAHO Healthcare Hero.
If you know someone that is a healthcare hero and would like to nominate them, visit us online and nominate them today. https://sdaho.org/heroes/