by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Valerie McCartney, MS, RN, has traveled the world during her lifetime.
But all those years she’s never veered away from her true calling – taking care of others.
A pastor’s wife, a missionary, a midwife and eventually a nurse, McCartney’s calling has always been to help.
And as her nursing career begins to wind down you’ll still find her taking care of people as a faith community nurse at Skyline Urban Ministry in Oklahoma City.
“The nursing is really essential,” McCartney said between blood pressure checks. “It is an interface between the community and the health system and that’s one of the biggest problems in healthcare at the moment.”
McCartney tries to fill the healthcare part of that gap as Skyline Urban Ministry tries to do the rest.
HISTORY OF SERVICE
Skyline Urban Ministry was established in 1969 and incorporated in 1974 as a mission outreach of the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Founder MacKenzie Thompson saw much of his city in poverty and decided to start an organization that could practically alleviate this harsh reality.
He and other members of his church, family, and neighborhood set out to create a relationship based mission that could help both the physical and societal needs of their clients. With an original emphasis on the Native American population, Skyline’s founders worked with tribal leaders, local church leaders, and social services to aid Native Americans and other poverty stricken groups in the community.
When Native Americans incorporated their own tribal social services, Skyline continued to serve those in need.
Continuing to operate in Oklahoma City, Skyline’s mission has always been to aid the urban population/working poor, children and senior citizens.
The focus is still on the original goals of the founders.
What started as a one-room food pantry has blossomed into a full service organization which provides food, clothing, eye exams, discounted glasses, school uniforms, and meals for senior citizens.
More than 40 years later, the Food Resource Center now serves more than 20,000 Oklahomans and more than 171,600 meals per year.
ACROSS THE POND
McCartney hails from England, where students begin narrowing in on their career fields early on.
She chose a technical school which offered accounting, typing and shorthand.
“I did that so I had something to fall back on,” she said. “My parents were in business so I knew those were useful skills if I couldn’t do anything else.”
At the age of 15 she decided she wanted to be a missionary. School teacher or nurse were her only options to pursue so she became a midwife and traveled with her husband, tending to the flocks at the numerous churches he would pastor.
McCartney decided it was time to start working again as her kids got older and more expensive.
She began working on the OB floor in Midwest City.
Then she moved to Oklahoma City’s south side.
Eventually she fell victim to a nursing downsize in the market and decided to retire at 64.
But something in her wasn’t ready to retire. That’s when she started volunteering as a faith community nurse and her nursing career blossomed.
“I knew at sometime I would be a parish nurse and I would be able to do my mission work,” she said.
Now she tends to those that might slip through the cracks.
“If you look at all the people then probably the biggest problem from the nursing point of view is access to healthcare but it’s also equally education about their chronic disease process,” she said. “They’re often so stressed in life the last thing they think about is themselves.”
“They know they’ve got a chronic disease but they’re not doing anything about it besides just hoping.”
McCartney sees her day-to-day priorities as increasing access to healthcare for the community, increasing health literacy and providing a continuity of care.
She gets her clients to sit down for a free blood pressure check.
But they get so much more.
“Education is really our cornerstone but you can’t educate unless you screen,” McCartney said.
Every Friday Skyline opens its doors to allow members of the community to come in and pick up an allotment of groceries.
A Prime Time senior program is also offered Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon for activities. McCartney pops in on them once a week for blood pressure screenings and glucose checks.
Her role is unique and one that is crucial.
“This is done in other states, not so much in Oklahoma, but they are talking about it,” McCartney said. “The faith community nurse is the interface between discharge and home care. Not all patients have home health.”
McCartney says she could use some help. She has openings for licensed nurses who could volunteer two hours a month, preferably on Wednesdays from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
For more information contact her at (405) 632-2644.