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COFFEEVILLE – Being an employee at Yalobusha Health Services (YHS) for 14 years has allowed Jessica Richardson to fulfill goals she identified early in life. She wanted to work in her hometown in Coffeeville, serving people she has known for decades.
“I was interested in science and medicine, so I applied for nursing school,” Richardson shared about the decision that launched her career at Coffeeville Medical Clinic in 2008 and spawned a quest for learning that has spanned much of the last decade. She initially worked at the clinic for three years before transferring to Yalobusha Nursing Home to work as the RN Supervisor while she earned a Bachelor of Science at Delta State University and Master of Science at Alcorn State University.
“The goal was always for me to come back here,” Richardson added about her time away from the Coffeeville clinic. “The administrators at Yalobusha Health Services were very flexible and very encouraging,” she explained about balancing work life with being a mom and wife while continuing her education.
Richardson returned to Coffeeville in 2014 to work as a Family Nurse Practitioner at YHS’ newly opened Arrington Medical Clinic
“I love being here to help take care of people I knew growing up,” she noted. “Often I am familiar with their family background, this knowledge helps me help them.”
Her patients range from young children to seniors, and her practice includes chronic care management, acute care and preventive care. Diabetes, cholesterol problems, hypertension and COPD are among the chronic illnesses that are commonly treated in the clinic. Richardson learned early in her career that it often takes extra effort with patients to help combat these illnesses.
“Taking care of your patients includes a lot of teaching, sometimes you have to go that extra mile spending extra time with your patients,” Richardson explained.
Richardson is also thankful to share her journey with Dr. Paul Odom, who serves as her collaborating physician. She explained that Dr. Odom is always a phone call way if she has a question or plans to admit a patient into the hospital.
“Even when I was in nurse practitioner school, working as RN supervisor at the nursing home. Dr. Odom would come in every day to check on patients and I would ask him questions, he loves to teach,” she added.
Richardson described an added bonus at the clinic as most of the staff are also from Coffeeville, creating a close-knit work family.
The Covid Years
Richardson readily recalled the start of the global pandemic that turned the medical world upside down. Spring break was approaching in 2020, and she had a trip planned with her family. Her daughter, Anna, had been hearing the news about Covid and was concerned.
“So we didn’t go, and that next week we were rocking along fine when the world changed,” Richardson continued.
There were immediate changes at YHS as new schedules were adopted to rotate health care workers each week to help keep them from all being exposed at the same time. Triage units were set up in the parking lots of the clinics and routine patient care often shifted to telemedicine. There were many days when the parking lot was filled with patients.
“We couldn’t turn anyone away, it was a challenging time,” Richardson recalled.
Richardson credits the strong support system provided by YHS as critical. The clinic was among the first in the area to offer rapid tests for Covid, which brought patients from surrounding areas. The clinic also had vaccines as soon as they were available, which also brought long lines of people to the clinic.
“That first batch of 100 vaccines, I think every patient was early that morning,” she recalled. The medical workers at the clinic also arrived to work early, getting ready for the busy day. Each worker had a role in an assembly line system implemented to handle the large volume of patients.
“We wanted to get those vaccines out, we were happy to get here early and work hard,” Richardson adds.
The clinic was also able to provide infusions for Covid patients soon after they were available.
“We had a lot of strong leadership helping us, keeping up with those ever-changing guidelines. Dr. (Heidi) Pratt was constantly sharing information, if we ran into something we weren’t sure about, she was always there to answer questions,” Richardson shared.
Richardson noted that the patient load seemed to peak from July through September in 2020 and 2021 as new variants emerged. She also explained that cases have declined this year, but there has been an uptick in recent weeks.
“A lot of people will come in thinking they have a sinus infection and test positive. They may or may not have fever. But it doesn’t seem like people are as sick with it now,” she explained.
Her educational journey would have one more step, Richardson and her co-worker at the clinic, Whitney Crow, decided to enroll at Mississippi University for Women to earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice.
“Whitney encouraged me, when she applied we just did it together,” she explained.
Ironically the Covid disruption made this path a little easier as there were only periodic trips to the campus and more of the work was accessible online. Both Crow and Richardson completed their doctorates last year.
With this work completed, Richardson reported she has completed her schooling and is confident she is at her forever job.
“This is where I want to retire.”