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Genia Olsen, RN, finds joy every day in her role with Good Shepherd Hospice.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

Genia Olsen, RN, has delivered babies, taught school, and laid hospice patients to rest.
Her professional careers have spanned the entire spectrum of life but she’s carried one thing with her no matter what she’s done: a love for people.
The Good Shepherd Hospice nurse knows that has gotten her and countless others through the best and worst days of their life.
And it’s why she sees herself continuing to build a legacy of helping others.
“First semester was just confusion, trying to figure out because I had no medical history,” she said looking back on a decision to enter nursing school.
Before she became a nurse, Olsen taught physical education to students from kindergarten through 12th grade in the western Grady County town of Verden, population right around 500.
After teaching a year she took off to have a child.
There was uncertainty of what she wanted to do next.
A family friend got the nursing notion into Olsen’s head.
“I thought I could do anything. I could go anywhere,” she said.
Her husband, Jody, a banker at the time, was unsure of his own future around the same time and became an RN in 1999.
She started her career working six months in med-surg before switching to labor and delivery for the next nine.
Six years of home health were sprinkled in before hospice fell into her lap in 2006.
Working PRN home health at the time census began to drop. She started putting resumes out to different home health companies just seeing where the cards might fall.
One company had a hospice associated with it when she came in for an interview.
When she interviewed she was told the only opening was in hospice so she took it.
“I figured God must be telling me something,” she laughed.
There was a solid six-month period of adjustment.
“With labor and delivery it’s like ‘How many people get to see a miracle every day?’” she said. “You kind of have to look at that at death, too. Not many people get to see that miracle every day. There’s different things with every patient you see – just God’s little signs of why this is happening.”
That realization came after about six months on the job and the hairs on the back of her neck have stood up more than once.
“Sometimes you do get that little chill. You know in your heart what’s going on,” she said.
“It is different ends of the spectrum but they’re both very intimate parts of a person’s life. “The end of life is very personal.’”
Witnessing both ends of a miracle has been unique. She’s learned to see the value in life at any age.
“It is rewarding,” she said. “It’s just as rewarding as a birth. You get a little more relationship with the family and sometimes with the patient too than you do with labor and delivery. With labor and delivery it’s all about the mom and a day and then you’re on to the next patient.”
“In hospice, if you get to have them for a few months you really do get to know them. You’re getting to know the family.”
And she’s still teaching. She says she gets more mileage out of her teaching certificate each and every day.
“We’re educating from the get-go,” said Olsen, who does admission assessments for Good Shepherd. “An admission visit you may be with them for four hours and you’re teaching the whole time. You’re answering all their questions and going further with it so they know what to expect.”
Funerals are a common occurrence in Olsen’s line of work.
But the days that most people dread are part therapy.
“That to me, gives us some closure and I think it helps the family,” Olsen said.
Is hospice nursing for everybody?
“No, but neither is labor and delivery,” she smiled. “Those two specialties, and I’m sure there are others, but you love it or you hate it. And if you don’t like it, it really doesn’t take long to figure out this wasn’t for me.”
Olsen has worked for three hospice companies during her nursing career.
She doubts she’ll ever work for another.
“This is the best I’ve ever worked for,” Olsen said. “They give very good care. In our surveys we score well nationally. You can’t just make that up. We do so many more visits with our patients and we’re there so much more in the end where (with other companies I worked for) it wasn’t quite like that.”
And much longer will that be?
“As long as I can,” Olsen grinned. “I really enjoy it. You have to look at a reward differently than you do in the hospital where you’re making them better or having the baby. It’s almost like you can’t make them live well but you can help them die well.”

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Oklahoma City University’s Kramer School of Nursing Dean Lois Salmeron has spent her 55 years as an RN not only caring for patients, but also working to help educate nurses who will carry the torch into the future.
Dean Lois Salmeron, Oklahoma City University’s Kramer School of Nursing.

Salmeron career a combination of nursing and education

by Traci Chapman, Staff Writer

Oklahoma City University Dean of the Kramer School of Nursing Lois Salmeron has ascended the heights during her life – as a nurse, an educator, a wife and mother and as a professional who successfully navigated a journey few women of her generation did.
“I have always wanted to be a nurse – my father encouraged me to go into medicine,” Salmeron said. “However, in those days to combine being married and having a family for women was a rarity.”
Despite that fact, the young woman decided to follow her instincts – Salmeron first attending nursing school at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas. Graduating in 1962, she and her husband married while she was a nursing student and he was completing his residency in anesthesiology.
With a diploma from St. Francis that allowed Salmeron to pass the state board and become a registered nurse, her first staff position was in the maternity acute care unit of the hospital where she attended nursing school. But, while she had a good start at the Wichita facility, it was only the start.
Her path veered in a different direction when Salmeron’s husband was offered a staff position at then-Baptist Hospital; the couple and their two children moved to Oklahoma City. It was after that move that Salmeron’s career really began to blossom.
She began her Oklahoma healthcare career as a staff nurse in Deaconess Hospital’s labor-delivery and mother-baby units – and, later, as nurse educator for Deaconess personnel hospital-wide.
That position showed yet another facet of nursing that would become a passion – education. That would be very important in the late 1960s when Mercy Hospital approached Oklahoma State University-OKC with a proposal.
It was a time when, like with Salmeron’s own experience, hospitals were the source of nurse education. Mercy’s idea to transfer its program to OSU-OKC helped spur a major change in the way nurses would obtain their degrees, and Lois Salmeron would be on the forefront of that movement.
“I was one of the first three faculty to begin that program,” she said. It was a program she would remain with for more than three decades, the last nine of her 31 years at OKC-OSU as division head of health services. While there, Salmeron also in the late 1980s spearheaded a nursing distance learning system for the Oklahoma panhandle area and based at OSU-OKC.
The now established nursing educator never stopped learning herself. Salmeron earned bachelor’s and masters of science degrees from University of Oklahoma; she obtained a master’s of arts in teaching at Oklahoma City University and Oklahoma State University Doctorate of Education with adult education focus.
In 2001, Salmeron was at a turning point, however. She retired from OSU-OKC, but the ongoing nursing shortage convinced her to remain in the field. Oklahoma City University’s Kramer School of Nursing had room to grow – and a place for Salmeron to help it do just that. For four years, she served as an adjunct professor, but that was far from the extent of her contribution to OCU.
“As KSN was growing in numbers of nursing students, I was asked to apply for the assistant dean position – I was chosen for that position in July 2005,” Salmeron said. “I advanced to be the associate dean in two years.”
When the dean took a semester off in the spring of 2013, Salmeron was named senior associate dean in charge. In June, when longtime Dean Marvel Williamson retired from the college, Salmeron was appointed interim dean.
Salmeron became Kramer School of Nursing Dean in January 2014, becoming responsible for the entire nursing department – “budget, enrollment, recruitment of students and faculty, hiring staff and faculty, working with the other schools on campus, service to the university and the community, fund raising for the department, strategic planning, awareness of state and national guidelines that must be followed for approval and national accreditation, continuing education for faculty and staff, maintaining a positive culture for faculty, staff and students to succeed,” Salmeron said. “These are just some of the responsibilities of the dean.”
While her position meant a full spectrum of responsibilities, it didn’t diminish the dean’s love of nursing and teaching – something she said she didn’t want to completely relinquish. She therefore chose to retain a part of what brought her to Oklahoma City University in the first place.
“I teach one PhD course every Fall semester called Nursing Education Administration,” the dean said. “It is rewarding and challenging to work with these adult students sharing some of the components of what is required to lead a nursing education program.”
Salmeron’s wide-ranging experience has served her – and the college – well. Last year, OCU began a distance learning program in Duncan that harkened back to her 1980s panhandle experience.
Like much of Salmeron’s career, the Duncan program is just one of several milestones of the past that have inspired achievements in the present. And, Salmeron herself has been a source of inspiration for thousands of students who know how much she has achieved in a world very different from today’s nursing opportunities – and her work has spurred countless awards, including the Distinguished Professional Service Award from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, a nonprofit aimed at promoting the health of women and newborns.
Salmeron was also the first nurse to ever receive the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Graham White Award and was in 2003 inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.
Salmeron has achieved as much in her personal life as she has in her profession – she and her husband have been married for 57 years and live in the home they built and moved into in 1968. The couple has three grown children who understood their mother’s education advocacy – a son and daughter are PhDs, while a second son earned his MBA and has his own financial management company. His siblings are a researcher in plant molecular biology and a clinical psychologist in private practice.
“My husband grows orchids, has his own greenhouse, is retired, but supports my passion of educating the next generation of nurses,” Salmeron said.
At 77, while many people would be looking to slow down or take an easier path, those around her said Salmeron shows no sign of doing that. Juggling a myriad of responsibilities at work, the dean also gives back to the community – she volunteers on several state and national nursing committees and serves on several boards, including Mercy, Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Oklahoma Higher Education Heritage Society; she is also an Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing peer reviewer.
Salmeron’s hands on approach shines through in all of her endeavors – her work, charitable and volunteer endeavors and her personal life – and it’s something illustrated by her view of the school and its culture, what she called the Kramer Way.
“My priority at KSN is to create the positive culture in which the faculty and staff can guide the nursing students to be successful and ready for the professional responsibilities that they will have,” Salmeron said. “The Kramer Way means we all try to live a life that values caring, kindness and respect.”

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story and photo provided

In many cultures the tree is a symbol of life, of a fresh start, of good health or a bright future. For these reasons, the tree has become a central figure for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) and its 22nd annual Celebrate Life event which honors cancer survivors for their personal triumphs over cancer, five years after first receiving treatment at the Tulsa hospital. To honor these survivors, the hospital plants a tree through the Arbor Day Foundation in their name.
This year, almost 50 cancer celebrants made the trip to Tulsa for event at CTCA in northeastern Oklahoma. The honorees journeyed from all over the country – from Colorado to Florida. Many brought friends with their relatives, surrounding themselves with the caregivers, prayer warriors, best friends, spouses, parents, children and grandchildren who had been with them each step of their treatment and recovery. During the uplifting event, CTCA nurses, doctors, administrators, staff, and of course family, cheered as each name was called and as white doves were released.
Reaching the five-year survival mark is a huge milestone for most patients who have experienced the cancer journey. And not just for the patients and family, but also for the hospital’s team members, especially the nurses. The special celebration is a time for many nurses to see patients once more for who they have cared, counseled, served and often come to know incredibly well.
“We are all always thrilled to share this special and uplifting day in our patients’ lives,” said Tammi Holden, chief nursing officer and vice president of oncology patient services at CTCA in Tulsa on behalf of the staff. “When a patient comes to our hospital, our entire team – from medical oncologists and registered nurses to physical therapists and licensed dietitians – works together with the individual and their caregivers toward the goal of not just surviving, but thriving.
“This event is an important tradition that commemorates their incredible story and every single new day they enjoy,” added Holden. And for every survivor, CTCA commits to planting a tree in their honor.
In addition to returning to Tulsa for the event, the Celebrate Life honorees are given the opportunity to add their names on brass leaves to the “Tree of Life” in the hospital’s entrance. In addition, an Interactive Survivor Tree, which includes a kiosk and large electronic wall screen near the lobby fireplace, allows visitors to select a specific person’s leaf and hear more about their cancer story. After participating in activities such as a group photo opportunity, “Camp Thrive Survivorship Fair,” and a luncheon, many survivors often seek out a beloved nurse, favorite doctor or special staff member for a hug or to introduce them to a family member.
This year CTCA celebrated 27 years in Tulsa serving, caring for, treating and helping patients. Over the years, the hospital has recognized more than 1,500 Celebrate Life five-year survivors and this year added a second “Tree of Life” in the hospital’s gallery to hold all of the honoree’s names.
Holden added, “The forest continues to grow, and that’s a good thing!”

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Robin Channel, Mercy Hospital Logan County director of nursing, her job is much more than work - rather it’s a calling that involves physical, mental and spiritual care.

by Traci Chapman – staff writer/photographer

For Robin Channel, work at Mercy is more than a job, beyond a career, something that cannot be quantified by and eight-to-five clock – it’s what she was always meant to do. And, Mercy Hospital Logan County is the place she was meant to do it.
“I love working at Mercy because I am able to live out my calling every day,” Channel said. “The mission statement, ‘As the Sisters of Mercy before us, we bring to life the healing ministry of Jesus through our compassionate care and exceptional service,’ says it all for me.”
Channel said she always wanted to work in healthcare, specifically the nursing field – and she started young. In high school, she worked as a nursing assistant; after taking time off to start her family, Channel returned to provide assistance to cardiac patients as a monitor technician.
While it was always something Channel felt compelled to do, she received yet more inspiration from someone close to her, someone who taught her through her daily actions exactly what being a nurse truly entailed, Channel said.
“I was inspired by my mother-in-law, Gracie Channel,” she said. “I saw and continue to see the way she affects people’s lives with the caring, compassionate and loving attitude she has shown throughout her life as an RN.”
With that inspiration came determination, and Channel began taking the steps she needed to become a nurse. It was a path that would feature a steep incline, as her education milestones meant leaps in her professional achievements.
Those milestones moved forward almost exactly on a 10-year schedule. Channel first attended Oklahoma State University, graduating with an associates nursing degree in 1995. It was in 2004 that Channel returned to school, this time Langston University, to pursue her bachelor’s degree; in 2015, she received her master’s degree from University of Central Oklahoma.
Throughout it all, there has been the job – helping patients, being part of something larger than herself. Channel’s experience has been varied – from working in the surgery and inpatient departments to emergency room and outpatient procedure area. In 2011, Channel started a three-year stint managing Logan’s emergency and surgery departments; after her 2015 graduation from UCO, her master’s degree translated into a new position – clinical education specialist for Mercy’s four regional facilities. In that role, Channel ensured both staff and administrators remained current in areas of expertise, she said.
In September 2015, the long-time nurse was ready for a new challenge, as she took over as Mercy Hospital Logan County’s director of nursing, responsible for nursing operations in a 25-bed critical access hospital. It’s a position she holds today.
“I work with managers to provide leadership, oversight and direction of clinical nursing services – this includes development and implementation of policies and procedures and educational opportunities,” Channel said.
The work – and work ethic – of Channel and her co-workers has not gone unnoticed. Mercy Hospital Logan County was recently named a top 20 critical access hospital for quality care by National Rural Health Association. Another Mercy hospital, Mercy Kingfisher, was also recognized with a NRHA top-20 award.
It is quite an achievement for a facility that only in 2011 transitioned from Logan Medical Center to Mercy Hospital Logan County, administrators said. It was that year that Mercy was one of several entities asked to submit a purchase proposal for the Guthrie Hospital, as well as four clinics located in Guthrie, Edmond and Crescent.
When Mercy in April 2011 entered into an agreement with Logan Medical Center, it meant the facility’s then eight physicians and 305 employees became part of Mercy’s billion-dollar system, which spans hospitals and outpatient facilities located in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas.
For Channel, Mercy’s growth always harkens back to that mission statement and the care she and everyone who works for Mercy Hospital Logan County make their primary goal. It’s a mission statement, and a philosophy, that goes far beyond Channel’s career and is reflected in a home life that includes Channel’s husband, what she calls her four children – her own and their spouses – and three grandchildren, as well as her involvement in Mercy’s Women’s Ministry and her own church family and its children’s church.
“I believe nursing is much more than a job, it is a profession and a calling – I love helping people understand the impact they have on patients’ lives, how they can help physically, mentally and spiritually,” Channel said. “And, I love helping people see their potential and watching people grow in their positions.”

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Former State Representative Lee Denney.
Anne Roberts, Director of Legislative Affairs at INTEGRIS.

Former State Representative Lee Denney and Anne Roberts, Director of Legislative Affairs at INTEGRIS, were recently honored by the American Music Therapy Association at a national conference held in St. Louis, Mo.
The pair received the Music Therapy State Advocacy Award for creating House Bill 2820, which requires music therapists in Oklahoma to be licensed and regulated through the Oklahoma State Medical Licensure Board. The bill passed in 2016 and is now called the Music Therapy Practice Act. The intent of the legislation was to stop unregulated practice that could potentially put the public at risk by establishing a state-based protection program that would ensure music therapy be provided by individuals who meet specific educational, clinical and credential qualifications.
Denney wrote the bill, while Roberts marshaled the bill through the legislative process, using real-life examples of music therapy success from INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation.
Lee Denney, Former State Rep. Anne Roberts, Director of Legislative Affairs at INTEGRIS “Since 1996, Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation has achieved outstanding results utilizing music therapy to help patients with a variety of neurological conditions regain speech and movement,” said Roberts. “Our INTEGRIS team joined with the American Music Therapy Association on an initiative to achieve official state recognition of the music therapy profession.”
Music therapists in Oklahoma work alongside physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists and psychologists, under a physician’s order, to evaluate and treat patients and participate in their treatment plan. As a result of the new act, in order to receive national certification, music therapists in Oklahoma now must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy and 1200 hours of clinical training including a supervised internship. Upon completion, the music therapist is then eligible to sit for the national board certification exam to obtain the Music Therapy-Board Certified (MT-BC) credential required for competent practice.
Suzanne Heppel is a board certified music therapist at INTEGRIS, who appreciates the added credibility and protection the legislation brings to an already noble profession. “Music therapy can provide an array of both cognitive and physical treatment techniques that utilize rhythm, melody and all parts of music to accomplish a therapy goal. From the young teenager learning to stand, talk or walk to the rhythms of the drumbeat, or the retired veteran relearning speech and language from the familiar songs of his youth; music therapy can engage patients across all ages and backgrounds.”
This is only the second time in the 18 year history of the American Music Therapy Association awards program that state advocates for music therapy were recognized in this way.

Oak Hills Care Center has immediate openings for
Apply in person
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“I like to go with my kids to the park and to their sporting events.” Randi Brandt, physical therapist

“I like to go to the park and hang out with my girls.” Percilla Carr, CNA/CMA

“Go out to eat. Take my kids out to eat.” Tabetha Howe, CNA

“I rodeo. I like riding horses and spending time with my son at movies.” Zasharie Morrow, CNA

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Q. I am 28, divorced twice, a child from each marriage and I am dating again. I had a serious relationship after my second divorce that ended badly but that did not slow me down. I can’t be without love from a man. I know this is bad but I can’t stop. What can I do? Haley


“The men I married, as it turns out, were not good for me. Their love was a mixed bag of intense highs followed by terrible lows. I usually ended up feeling worse but when I felt loved – it was exhilarating. The list of reasons why I should leave was always longer than why I should stay. I stayed because I Loved him and he Loved me. He didn’t mean to lie, have sex with other women and push me occasionally. He was tired and didn’t mean it.”
“My serious relationship after my second divorce had some big red flags and I prided myself on getting out before I invested too much of myself. My friends were relieved. BUT it didn’t last – I went back; to those times of feeling loved and cared about, offset by his control and possessiveness. When I felt loved by him – it was perfect, I was perfect.
So Haley here are some good treatment suggestions:
1. RUN, don’t walk to the nearest 12 step Codependents Anonymous (CODA) meeting.
2. Find a therapist and begin some intense individual therapy.
3. Play the “consequence movie” — what will happen if I engage in this behavior.

“Addicted To Love” by Robert Palmer

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The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced the first two deaths caused by the flu in the state. Both deaths occurred in patients who were over the age of 65. There have been 105 influenza-associated hospitalizations reported statewide.
The number of flu cases is relatively high for this time of year, and public health officials are concerned there will be a high risk of spreading the flu during the holiday season. The highest number of flu-related hospitalizations has occurred among those who are older than 50 years of age, as well as children younger than 5, which are both groups at greater risk of experiencing severe illness and complications due to flu.
The OSDH reminds the public that there are still several months left in the flu season. The single best way to protect against flu and its consequences is to get the flu vaccine. Many local county health departments, pharmacies and health care providers have vaccine and health officials urge everyone 6 months of age and older to get the vaccine to protect themselves and those around them from influenza, especially babies too young to receive a vaccination. It takes about two weeks after getting a flu shot for a person’s immune system to respond and provide defenses against influenza viruses.

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Interim Commissioner Preston Doerflinger announced today that he is naming Julie Ezell as General Counsel for the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
“Julie has proven through her work with the Commissioners of the Land Office and during her time at the Attorney General’s Office that she is uniquely qualified to help lead OSDH into the agency’s next phase,” said Doerflinger. “She has a proven track record of leading agencies during transitions and she will be an invaluable asset as we move the agency forward. I’m excited to have her on board as part of our team.”
Ezell has been a practicing attorney for 11 years, ten of which have been with the State of Oklahoma. Her work history includes tenures at the Oklahoma Tax Commission, Commissioners of the Land Office, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office and, most recently, serving in the dual role as General Counsel and Deputy Executive Director for the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System.
“I applaud the selection of Julie Ezell as general counsel at the Oklahoma State Department of Health,” Attorney General Mike Hunter said. “She is a talented and skilled attorney, who has experience handling complex circumstances. Julie and I worked together to modernize, create accountability and return public trust to the Commissioners of the Land Office during my time as Secretary of the Commission in 2009 and 2010.”
Ezell is a fourth generation Oklahoman and lives in Edmond, Oklahoma with her husband and four children.
The OSDH General Counsel position is currently vacant. Ezell will assume General Counsel duties immediately.