by James Coburn – staff writer
Alexis Keester says she is grateful her first role as a nurse practitioner is at Valir PACE, located in Oklahoma City.
“I’m learning so much. Our patients are very complex having a wide range of medical conditions that require very close management,” Keester said. “So, I am learning and growing my knowledge base while helping them.”
Valir Pace reaches participants across all levels of care and all environments. It targets the lower socioeconomic patient, age 55 and older. Most of the patients have been without health care or health insurance for years, and so they arrive with multiple comorbidities. The program provides social work and an adult day center for socialization and activities. Valir PACE works with Medicare and Medicaid to serve underprivileged Oklahomans during a vulnerable period of their life. Many of them depend on food stamps. PACE provides their medicine with the involvement of a primary care provider, mental health specialist, social worker, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and two warm meals a day.
“We keep them independent in their communities and keep them empowered to live their own lives the way they want to,” Keester explained. (STORY CONINUES BELOW)
Her interest in nursing sparked when her mother taught elementary school and worked part-time as a home health aide. Keester went to the same school where her mother taught and accompanied her to all home health visits.
“She let me help. So, I would read to them and just sit with them while they ate. I think that time sparked something in me, and I realized how much I liked helping people,” Keester recalled.
Being a nurse practitioner further enriched her pathway of making people healthier with a smile on their faces, she said.
She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2016 from the University of Central Oklahoma. She completed the online program at Maryville University of St. Louis to advance her career as a nurse practitioner. She did her clinicals for her Master of Science degree when working full-time at the Mercy Hospital ER, located in Oklahoma City. She worked at the Mercy ER for four years after serving in patient rehabilitation at Mercy.
“I’ve been here at Valir PACE for four months and everybody is so warm and welcoming,” Keester continued. “I’ve noticed so far what they truly do for the participants. It’s not just what’s under the job description.”
She was touched when a group of volunteer co-workers went to deep clean a patient’s home. Some of the nurses have given some of their own furniture to participants in need.
“It’s just heartwarming to be around people that give to other people and just live with kindness,” Keester said.
Being compassionate makes a nursing career a very rewarding profession. Nurses also have employment opportunities to create their own schedules whether it’s Monday-Friday, three 12-hour shifts, or just working weekends.
“In addition, you can go home and feel like you made a true difference in someone’s life,” she said.
She recalled several moments at the Mercy ER when family members would break down when doctors and nurses saved someone’s life.
“They embrace you and give you thanks. There are many moments like that bringing you to tears,” Keester said. “Sometimes as a nurse you think you need to keep the shield up and not show emotion, but sometimes in those moments you cry together or pray together. Just feeling those moments leave this lasting impact on your soul. That’s not something you can forget. There were several occasions like that in the ER that will always be a part of me and continue to instill the need to help people.”
Her nursing experiences culminated to answer the dire challenges facing human existence. Today, she feels lucky to have a job she loves doing. The impact of a nursing career has led her to reflect on her life. She is empowered to trust herself more by letting go of self-doubt, she said. Nursing is a challenging field that can prove how strong a person is, Keester said. She embraces the responsibility of placing orders and managing health conditions.
Through a mutual friend at Valir PACE, she was invited to an unofficial tour to see if she would want to apply there.
“Right from the get-go, I just loved the environment and how different it was,” Keester said. “And just after that tour and the interview, I met with several different people and got a good sense that I would be a good fit with the team.”
Being surrounded by other nurse practitioners in leadership roles at Valir PACE felt right.