CAREERS IN NURSING
KLEPPER CHANGES LIVES OF PATIENTS AND NURSES – HEALTH ACCESS NETWORK
by Traci Chapman – Writer/Photographer
Nursing can be fulfilling, challenging and heartbreaking, becoming a way of life beyond any kind of career.
For more than 40 years, that’s how it’s been for Rosemary Klepper, a nurse who has made countless patients’ lives better – not only through her own efforts, but also as an educator and mentor, a volunteer and community advocate.
“She’s someone who once you know you never forget,” former El Reno Parkview Hospital administrator Lex Smith said. “There’s a strength and such a depth of knowledge with Rosemary, but it’s balanced with incredible caring and empathy.”
El Reno is where is all began for Klepper. A native of the Canadian County seat, she returned to her hometown after graduating from college and became a registered nurse in 1973. While she said she loved working with patients, much of her journey would instead be dedicated to guiding new nurses to their profession.
“I guess I’m just a natural educator, of sorts,” Klepper said last year. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people find what they were meant to do and really embrace the love of nursing and all of the good we can do.”
Klepper first stepped into nursing education as an LPN instructor at Canadian Valley Technology Center, working also at University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. In 1979, she developed Redlands Community College’s associate degree nursing program and served as its director for 16 years.
“That program served and still continues to serve countless students from our area and prepares them to help other people,” Klepper’s daughter, Mendy Klepper, said. “Who can count how many people have benefited from it?”
Klepper in 2004 moved to Oklahoma City Community College, taking the helm of the college’s nursing program, claimed by officials to be the largest in the state. OCCC offers both a traditional registered nursing curriculum, as well as the Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing Pathway program.
“The program increased its application acceptance from 54 to 72 applicants twice a year through 2011,” Klepper said. “In Pathway, students who have a bachelor’s degree in another field and who have fulfilled certain prerequisites can complete their RN degree in 10 months.
“That program was my dream come true because it was such a great chance for people to change their careers and do something completely different,” she said. Under her leadership, OCCC’s traditional nursing program doubled in size, with another 60 people taking part in Pathway annually; according to state records, 90 percent of Pathway students passed the national license exam on their first try, exceeding both state and federal averages.
“Although Rosemary retired from OCCC more than five years ago, her legacy still remains,” OCCC President Dr. Jerry Steward said. “She is an inspiration to her former students, some of whom now teach here, and she’s known throughout the state for her dedication to nursing and education.”
With her retirement from OCCC in 2011, Klepper returned to her roots – really a place she never left. A longtime board member at Parkview Hospital in El Reno, in 1981 Klepper was instrumental in establishing the Canadian County Board of Health. That began a 34-year ongoing association as a board member and Klepper’s subsequent involvement in Canadian County Coalition for Children and Families. There, she has been a driving effort in a multi-pronged partnership involving state and federal agencies and family advocate agencies like Youth and Family Services, Red Rock Behavioral Services, the Gary E. Miller Canadian County Children’s Justice Center and more.
“Rosemary has done so much to help bring healthcare and family services together, and in the process it’s been a huge boost for family and children not just locally but beyond,” coalition member Billie Linam said.
Those associations were helpful when in 2011, Klepper returned to Canadian County as project/case manager for its Health Access Network. “The Health Access Network – HAN – is instrumental in helping families find health care resources,” Klepper said. “This was a grassroots endeavor that grew out of El Reno Community Clinic, and the whole premise kind of starts with that patient-centered medical home.
“They needed a nurse to work as the case manager, to make sure this all worked together and was a benefit to the patients, and it just seemed like a great opportunity,” she said.
While Klepper isn’t directly involved in education as HAN case manager, she still fulfills the role of teacher, sometimes without even knowing it, RN Rhonda Chronister said. Also a lifelong El Reno resident, Chronister works as one of two HAN care managers. “I’ve been a nurse for 30 years and Rosemary always inspires and pushes me every day, even after all this time,” RN Rhonda Chronister said. “She’s had this amazing career that has all of these different phases, each one so different but always helping so many people.”