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For Karen McKeever, a lifetime of nursing goes far behind the confines of a doctor’s office or hospital - it’s making sure the patient and their family is whole, healthy and happy.

by Traci Chapman, Staff Writer

For Karen McKeever, nursing is about helping the most vulnerable, those who might struggle with getting the help they need.
It’s a philosophy that’s led her to treat thousands of patients and help spearhead an ever-expanding effort to lead patients having difficulty finding their to way discover the right path.
“It just seemed like the people who might need help the most are often overlooked – it’s the people without insurance or who are struggling not only with physical issues, but also mental health challenges,” McKeever said. “They need someone who can be there for them in their corner, to let them know they’re not facing this all alone.”
That kind of nurturing spirit comes easy to McKeever, a mother of six who now has nine grandchildren – and a nurse who worked in pediatrics and as a Yukon Public Schools nurse, concentrating on severely disabled students. Looking out not only for the young, but also the disabled and those who might not have an advocate became McKeever’s life work, a passion that led to an organization aimed at doing just that.
It was originally Canadian County Health Access Network, started in 2011 by McKeever and fellow nurse Rosemary Klepper.
“So many Sooner Care patients don’t know where to go or how to best address their health issues – you see many going to the emergency room when there are better avenues available, and you find families that are dealing with problems that go far beyond basic health or physical disease or distress,” McKeever said.
“There was just a huge gap in service, a real need for these patients and for their families, who were not being taken care of or served,” she said. “We knew how important it was for them to have someone they could turn to – as nurses, we needed to be there not only to treat them but to guide them and help with whatever challenges they were facing.”
It wasn’t long, however, before McKeever and Klepper’s philosophy caught on, and patients beyond El Reno, Yukon, Mustang and other area communities began to ask for assistance. That’s why CC-HAN’s “CC” soon transitioned from Canadian County to , Central Communities, with co-founder and care manager McKeever and fellow care manager Rhonda Chronister now available to SoonerCare patients and their families across south central Oklahoma, working to improve their health and healthcare options and much more.
“Rosemary (Klepper) decided it was time to retire, to explore other things, but my heart is here, I didn’t want to walk away,” McKeever said. “That’s when Rhonda came onboard, and it’s been a great arrangement.”
For her part, Chronister said she views McKeever not only as a co-worker, fellow care manager and nurse, but also as a mentor who has spurred on Chronister’s own love of nursing and helping patients far beyond regular nursing duties.
“Karen is an amazing person and an amazing nurse, and it’s a remarkable opportunity to work with her and learn from her,” Chronister said. “Her capacity for love and how she gives of herself is inspirational to everyone who knows her, particularly the people we serve.”
McKeever has always envisioned something bigger for CC-HAN, which led to the agency helping patients not only locate the right caregiver and treatment, but also issues that might aggravate physical ailments. That’s why CC-HAN provides care management to patients not only facing financial constraints that can limit their ability to get the medical treatment they might need, but also those who deal with complex health issues, as well as providing a proactive approach – guiding patients to the right resources for well child examinations and care, injury and accident prevention, diet and nutrition and accessible medical and dental care.
“What the patient might need at any particular moment might not be ‘nursing’ services, but rather they might not have gas money to get to an appointment or they might not have any food in the cupboards – and that disrupts the treatment they need,” McKeever said. “That’s the bottom line – making sure they are healthy and able to live their lives and do what they need to do, because someone who’s dealing with a mental health issue can have a ripple effect on their entire family, and that family might need guidance in how to help and to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact others, either mentally or physically.”
It’s a philosophy that’s not only challenging and fulfilling, but also always interesting, McKeever said. She never knows what she might face in any given day – whether it will be assisting patients with medical care options, educating families about CC-HAN’s resources or even delivering food to someone who is hungry and doesn’t know where to turn.
“What we do is everything that’s the best of nursing – helping people who truly need it and giving that care, that guidance – as a nurse, it’s so fulfilling and inspirational, and to me it’s what our profession is all about,” McKeever said. “To me, if you’re a nurse, you’re always a nurse – it’s not something you do, it’s something you are.”
For more information about Central Communities Health Access Network, its services or philosophy, look online at www.cc-han.com.

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A Student interacts with manikin “patients” during the grand opening of Oklahoma City University’s Kramer School of Nursing Meinders Simulation Center.

story and photo by Traci Chapman, Staff Writer

Before clinicals, it’s often difficult for nursing students to have true hands-on experience, to take that extra step beyond the academic world to the real world – but for the 500 students at Oklahoma City University’s Kramer School of Nursing, that’s no longer the case.
“We wanted to give our students every opportunity to have this kind of experience early on and to be able to interact with ‘patients’ in a meaningful way in a type of classroom environment,” said Christopher Black, nursing school communications and outreach director. “This is a way for them to have that patient interaction, with the opportunity to get the feedback from their instructors they need to move forward.”
That patient interaction comes thanks to OKCU’s newly opened Meinders Nursing Simulation Center, a facility featuring seven simulated hospital rooms and including responsive manikins, who can speak with and will fully interact with students, as they deal with real-life nursing challenges. “Patients” will have medical histories and will respond to the treatment they receive, not only verbally, but also through their vital signs – anatomically correct manikins will feature pulses and respiration, things that are communicated through the types of monitoring equipment students will utilize once they begin working in medical facilities during their clinicals and beyond, officials said.
Rooms run from general hospital scenarios to more specific treatment facilities – like labor and delivery and intensive care, Black said. Instructors provide patients’ voices and program medical issues for students to resolve, as they remain in one of four observation rooms, located between two simulated “treatment” areas.
“It can be just about anything – a patient could have a heart attack, a reaction to medication, something small or large,” Black said. “This kind of simulation is invaluable – we’ve found several research studies that back how important this is and how it can help a student in learning to deal with high-risk situations.”
The new wing also features rooms where students can meet with their professors for critical analysis after a simulation session, as well as bounce ideas off each other for dealing with a particular situation, Black said. Those areas – two debriefing/conference rooms – are just one part of renovations that also include a computer laboratory and two instructor offices.
Another unique feature of the Meinders Center is a home simulation area, Black said. Featuring a basic bedroom scenario with attached bathroom, the space allows students who want to go into or are interested in home health nursing to understand the constraints of that kind of care – and learn about the challenges facing those they will be treating.
The Meinders’ renovations extend outside the clinical arena, however. Black said administrators also wanted to give students a space where they could relax, socialize and reflect. That led to the configuration of a student relaxion patio located adjacent to the Meinders Center, as well as a prayer labyrinth that can offer students a chance to meditate and get some space from the pressures of school, studies and life in general, he said.
While OKCU’s Kramer School of Nursing has been leading students into the world of nursing for more than 30 years, the opening of the Meinders Center is a giant step forward for the school’s 30-plus full-time nursing faculty members and roughly 500 students, Black said. The 16,000-square-foot area until 2010 housed the entire nursing school, meaning faculty and staff were crammed in with the roughly 300 students attending at that time.
OKCU’s nursing evolution began in 2010, when the school unveiled an $8.5 million expansion. That added 50,000 square feet, 10 classrooms, three labs and six seminar rooms – quadrupling the size of the nursing school and paving the way for an exploding student population.
Kramer offers Bachelor of Science in Nursing and RN-to-BS programs, as well as Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Nursing PhDs.
Like teaching, Oklahoma faces another critical shortage – nurses. OKCU’s nursing school’s technological teaching leaps come at a critical time, as the state hovers toward the bottom of the country in number of nurses, according to data from the Oklahoma Board of Nursing and state Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s why simulation facilities like the Meinders Center are so important in encouraging more people to enroll in nursing school and providing those students the most comprehensive education possible, officials said.
“The types of tools we have here mean we can best prepare our students for what they’ll face in the real world and the types of situations they might encounter,” Black said. “Opening this simulation center is a huge step in making sure they are ready to do that.”
More information about the Kramer School of Nursing and Meinders Simulation Center are available online at https://www.okcu.edu/nursing/home.

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Yoshanna Larson, April Hatchell and DeAnn Cross are Oklahoma Blood Institute technicians working to make a Cord Blood bank a reality for patients. The three women’s efforts spurred them to begin nursing school, so they can even further expand those efforts.

by Traci Chapman – staff writer/photographer

As World Cord Blood Day nears, Oklahoma Blood Institute is on the forefront of this life-saving stem cell collection – and three technicians believe in the process, and their employer, so much, they are investing in their own futures to help others.
DeAnn Cross, Yoshanna Larson and April Hatchell have worked a combined 27 years at Oklahoma Blood Institute. All three started their OBI careers in mobile blood collection units; each chose to work on the developing cord blood program as each pursues a nursing degree.
The work of this trio, and others like them, is highlighted by Nov. 15’s World Cord Blood Day, an effort to illustrate the universe of possibilities the stem cells found in umbilical cords open up for patients.
“It’s amazing, the potential is amazing,” Larson said. “Cord blood treats over 80 different diseases, things like cancer – but it can also work for things like paraplegic healing.
“When you look at people who are adopted or who might not have family members, there are not as many donors on the register who can be a match to them,” she said.
While stem cells are located in several areas throughout the body – the brain, blood, liver, muscles and, most notably, bone marrow, umbilical cord blood is much denser in its stem cell counts. While cord blood can replace damaged or dysfunctional cells like other collected cells, research is finding even more significant treatment paths unique to the umbilical cord, said Mandi Kaiser, OBI’s therapeutic apheresis and cellular therapy manager.
“Of course, the research is ongoing, but it’s clear there is something very, very special about these particular cells,” she said.
“The cord has such small cells – they’re easier to find a match because they’re immature, it’s like a clean slate,” Hatchell said. “The umbilical cord is the biggest producer of stem cells in our body.”
Researchers with the National Institutes of Health back up those statements. According to NIH studies on cord blood, the chance of Graft versus Host Disease – GvHD – is less likely with this source of stem cells, and a patient’s chance for relapse after treatment for leukemia and other diseases is much lower.
Cord blood also offers other advantages, Cross, Larson and Hatchell said. Utilizing those cells can avoid the necessity of critically ill patients having to undergo stem cell harvest before treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. While, of course, those kinds of procedures would never be completely replaced by cord blood, it could mean a massive difference not only in possible outcomes, but also how their treatment might progress, experts said.
Unlike embryonic stem cells, cord blood is only collected after a baby’s birth and doesn’t interfere with the labor and delivery process. There are no ethical or religious concerns in utilizing cells collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after birth – only benefits, Cross said.
“There literally is no reason why this shouldn’t be done after most births, especially when you look at the benefits to so many patients, the number of lives that could be saved and possibility impacted,” she said. “While there are some factors that make a cord unusable – things like infection or disease in a family – that’s the minority.”
So, what’s the problem – why isn’t cord blood harvesting a regular part of the post-birth process and a readily available treatment tool for Oklahoma patients?
“There just isn’t the education out there yet about these benefits – and the fact is that these umbilical cords and placentas are literally being thrown in the trash,” Cross said.
That’s where OBI and the three-member team of Cross, Larson and Hatchell – and their boss Kaiser – come in, as the non-profit steadily works toward becoming the first Oklahoma facility to have a cord blood bank. It’s a long process, though, as OBI negotiates most notably U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations, but also other agency requirements that will allow cord blood donated here to be part of a registry offered to patients who need it.
“We’ve built the lab and we’ve purchased the equipment, but we have to prove our technology – everything has to be validated,” Kaiser said. “The units we are collecting now are just for that purpose, because we have to have 200 bankable units to even apply to the FDA.”
Once OBI’s cord blood unit fulfills all the necessary criteria, FDA has up to six months to reply to the facility’s application to finalize the stem cell bank.
“It could be six months, it could be two weeks,” Kaiser said. “There’s just no way to know, but we think we’re looking at a year or two process.”
No matter how long that process, one thing seems sure – OBI will be making stem cell history in Oklahoma.
“We’ll be the first in the state to have a cord blood bank,” Larson said.
As the team collects the cells necessary for accreditation, they are finding just how crucial labor and delivery nurses can be to the process. While Larson, Hatchell and Cross can educate women about to give birth about all that cord can do, the nurses who guide those patients through that process can also be a part of changing a life – with something that many consider medical waste.
“It’s really a great deal about education – because a lot of people who aren’t doing this don’t even know what it’s about or how much it can mean to others,” Larson said. “It’s up to us not only to collect these cells when the mother agrees to it, but also to let everyone involved know these literally can mean the difference between life and death for someone.”
That knowledge spurred all three OBI technicians to pursue some education of their own, Kaiser said. Hatchell and Larson are attending Rose State, while Cross is studying at OSU-OKC, all working toward their nursing degrees. It was the kind of dedication and belief in what they’re doing that has permeated each in their OBI career, Kaiser said.
“I saw what they were doing here, it’s groundbreaking – I saw I could have a piece of the future,” Hatchell said. “I just wanted to be a part of that.”
“To think about what this could mean to so many people, to their families, the people who love them and to their lives – well it’s pretty easy to want to help make that a reality,” Cross said. “It’s a blessing to have a job that potentially means so much to so many.”
More information about Word Cord Blood Day is available online at https://www.worldcordbloodday.org/.

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The Board of Directors of St. Gregory’s University made the difficult, but necessary, decision on Wednesday to suspend operations of the university at the end of this semester, following the denial of their loan application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Without this component in the financial plan, the ability to sustain the university at this point is not possible. The Board of Directors continues to work actively to resolve financial difficulties and to explore possible partnerships in order to move forward.
“With great sadness, the Board of Directors of St. Gregory’s University voted today to suspend operations effective at the close of the fall semester 2017,” said Fr. Don Wolf, Chairman of the Board. “Our main concern at this moment is for our students, staff, and faculty who will be profoundly impacted by this decision. The University is working with several colleges to facilitate student transfers in an attempt to minimize disruption in our students’ lives. Please keep them in your prayers.”
Established in 1875, St. Gregory’s is a private liberal arts college and Oklahoma’s only Catholic university. It is located 40 miles east of Oklahoma City.
“My heart breaks for the profound disruption in the lives of our wonderful students, staff, and faculty as the Board of Directors voted to suspend operations of one of Oklahoma’s iconic institutions of higher learning. We will do everything possible to ease the transition as we work with other colleges to place our students. My heart also breaks at the suspension of Catholic liberal arts education in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Michael Scaperlanda, President of St. Gregory’s University.
The university will finalize a provisional plan with the Higher Learning Commission. Once the plan is approved by HLC, students will be notified of the plan. Teach-out agreements and transfer opportunities are underway with area universities. Over the next few weeks, transfer fairs and job fairs will be scheduled on campus.
“I am grateful for our excellent staff and faculty who have labored for years under severe financial constraints, dedicated to providing the best education for our students. They have provided generations of students a framework to live joy-filled lives in service to others. I am also grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of the monastic community, the Board of Directors, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the Catholic Church of Oklahoma and countless others who have prayed for St. Gregory’s and given of their resources to help sustain the university,” President Scaperlanda said.
Rt. Rev. Lawrence Stasyszen, Abbot and Chancellor of St. Gregory’s expressed that “The monks of St. Gregory’s Abbey are deeply concerned by this turn of events. We are especially concerned for the families who will be impacted by this development. Our community has made one of our highest priorities the mission of education since coming to Indian Territory in 1875. We are grateful to the countless people who have been partners with us in this ministry, especially the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and many dedicated colleagues and donors. We maintain our commitment to pray for all who have attended and supported St. Gregory’s over the years, and will explore new ways of contributing to the culture of Oklahoma.” The Abbey will continue serving the Catholic community.
“Like so many small liberal arts colleges, St. Gregory’s has struggled financially for years. We are grateful to St. Gregory’s Abbey, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City for providing bridge funding as the university worked to create a financially sustainable business model.
For more information and updates, visit www.stgregorys.edu.

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Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Holly Van Remmen, Ph.D.

An Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist has received a grant from the National Institute on Aging to investigate a potential link between Alzheimer’s disease and age-related loss of muscle mass.
Holly Van Remmen, Ph.D., received a one-year, $100,000 supplemental grant to follow up on data indicating that people suffering with Alzheimer’s have accelerated sarcopenia, a disease in which the body loses skeletal muscle mass as it ages.
“When we think of Alzheimer’s disease pathology, we think of dementia, but a few newer studies indicate that the same mechanisms that cause dementia could affect other neurons and tissues throughout the body,” said Van Remmen, chair of OMRF’s Aging and Metabolism Research Program.
Van Remmen said the grant will address whether or not they can detect an accelerated loss of muscle mass, function or atrophy in mouse models with Alzheimer’s compared to mice that age normally.
“In this way, we could potentially get a better idea of how the Alzheimer’s pathology can influence other symptoms in the body,” she said. “This could be a critical component of the disease, because people suffering with Alzheimer’s often survive for many years while the disease progresses, and a loss of function can have a profound negative impact on an already declining quality of life.”
Alzheimer’s is the fifth-leading cause of death in Americans over the age of 65. It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80 percent of all cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Based on the results of this pilot study, Van Remmen and her lab may pursue additional funding to continue the work.
Van Remmen joined OMRF in 2013 after spending two decades doing research in aging at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. At OMRF, she holds the G.T. Blankenship Chair in Aging Research.
The grant, No. 3P30AG050911-03S2, was added to her existing five-year, $3.8 million National Institutes of Health grant that established Oklahoma’s Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in Basic Biology of Aging in 2015.
The Center, one of only six designated Nathan Shock Centers in the U.S., united OMRF, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Veterans Administration Medical Center to study how aging impacts disease and how changes that occur in aging predispose people to disease.

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What’s something you’ve learned to make your shift run smoother? AllianceHealth Midwest

Take good notes. I share with other nurses and they share them with me. Jim Parker, RN

I think learning from my mistakes. Dee Reisman, RN

Just not to expect anything to run how you think it will. Virginia Hotvedt, RN

Not let negative talk bring me down. I try to stay on track and patient-focused. Staci Branch, RN

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The following test was developed by psychologists at Boston University Medical Center. Score each item from 1 (almost always) to 5 (never) according to how much of the time each statement applies to you.
_____ 1. I eat at least one hot, balanced meal a day.
_____ 2. I get seven to eight hours sleep at least four nights a week.
_____ 3. I give and receive affection regularly.
_____ 4. I have at least one relative within 50 miles on whom I can rely.
_____ 5. i exercise to the point of perspiration at least twice a week.
_____ 6. I smoke less than half a pack of cigarettes a day.
_____ 7. I take fewer than five alcoholic drinks a week.
_____ 8. I am the appropriate height for my weight.
_____ 9. i have an income adequate to meet basic expenses.
_____ 10. I get strength from my religious beliefs.
_____ 11. I regularly attend club or social activities.
_____ 12. I have a network of friends and acquaintances.
_____ 13. I have one or more friends to confide in about personal matters.
_____ 14. I am in good health (including eyesight, hearing, teeth)
_____ 15. i am able to speak openly about my feelings when angry or worried.
_____ 16. I have regular conversations with the people I live with about domestic problems, i.e., chores, money and daily living issues.
_____ 17. I do something for fun at least once a week.
_____ 18. I am able to organize my time effectively.
_____ 19. I drink fewer than three cups of coffee (or tea or cola drinks) a day.
_____ 20. I take quiet time for myself during the day.

_____ TOTAL
To get your score, add up the figures and subtract 20. Any number over 30 indicates a vulnerability to stress. You are seriously vulnerable if your score is between 50 and 75, and extremely vulnerable if it is over 75.


Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City

If you would like to send a question to Vicki, email us at news@okcnursingtimes.com

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Fall report cards are in and Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City earned an “A” grade for keeping patients safe.
The Leapfrog Group just released its fall 2017 Hospital Safety Grades, which score hospitals on how safe they keep their patients from errors, injuries, accidents and infections. More than 2,600 U.S. general acute-care hospitals were assigned scores and only 832 received an A (32 percent of those surveyed).
“Our Mercy physicians and co-workers deserve credit for this prestigious recognition,” said Jim Gebhart, Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City president. “There has been significant work around all aspects of continual improvement of patient care, and Leapfrog’s “A” grade is a measurement of that work. I am very proud of our co-workers for their dedication to patient quality, safety and service.”
“We’re always focused on providing the highest quality care to our patients,” said Dr. Keith Starke, Mercy chief quality officer. “The work done by our co-workers to earn top grades for quality is critical to our patients and noticed by organizations such as Leapfrog that rank hospitals across the country.”
The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is calculated by top patient safety experts, peer reviewed, fully transparent and free to the public. It is updated every six months, once in the fall and once in the spring.
Using 30 evidence-based measures of patient safety, The Leapfrog Group calculated a numerical score for all eligible hospitals in the U.S. The numerical score was then converted into one of five letter grades: A, B, C, D or F.

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Today, St. Anthony Hospital celebrated the completion of its latest construction project to advance its exceptional care, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on the third floor of its Midtown campus. The $1.4 million NICU is designed to care for ill and premature newborn infants.
Opening Wednesday, Nov. 1, the St. Anthony NICU has the capacity to care for 15 neonatal patients and is a locked unit equipped with state of the art infant security features. Staffed by OU Physicians Neonatologists, the level II NICU will provide a nurturing environment, allowing the babies to eat, sleep and grow safely and comfortably.
Understanding the essential role parents play in the development of their newborn, the new unit features a family-centered care environment. Within the NICU’s spacious rooms, ample accommodations are provided for parents in support of overnight stays. Families are encouraged to be fully involved in the care of their newborn.
“We are opening the St. Anthony NICU to provide peace of mind to new parents. By opening this unit, it will reduce the number of babies who need to transfer to another hospital. Patients will receive a continuity of care from admission to discharge,” said St. Anthony Hospital President Tammy Powell.
The St. Anthony Foundation contributed $50,000 towards the family-centered care furnishings for the new unit. Miller Architects designed the unit with Waldrop Construction as the general contractor.

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David Whitaker accepting the installation as OHA board chairman.

Mercy leaders in both Oklahoma and Missouri were installed last week as board chair for their respective state’s hospital association.
David Whitaker, chief administrative officer of Mercy in Oklahoma, was installed as Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA) Board of Directors Chair at the 98th Annual Convention. Whitaker’s two-year term begins January 1.
Jeff Johnston, president of Mercy’s eastern Missouri region, was sworn in as Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) Board of Trustees Chair during the 95th Annual Convention banquet. His one-year term begins January 1.
In addition to responsibilities at the state level, Whitaker and Johnston will lead the Oklahoma and Missouri delegations to Washington, D.C., twice during the year, and will act as national spokespersons for hospitals in their home states.
“Mercy is working to make care better for our patients,” said Donn Sorensen, Mercy executive vice president. “When our leaders take on state-wide roles within the hospital associations it gives us a seat at the table when policies are being set. The same skills that make them excellent leaders within Mercy will serve them well as they work to improve care for patients across the states they represent.”