When Michaela Beaver graduated from the University of Iowa with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in 2014, she thought she was headed for a career in an emergency department; however, after about two years in a Sheldon, Iowa, ER, she noticed an alarming trend: access to mental health care was substantially lacking in Northwest Iowa.
So, Beaver left the ER to pursue a career in primary care. She enrolled in the College of Nursing’s doctorate certificate program and is currently pursuing a Psychiatric and Mental Health NP certificate while she works at the United Community Health Center in Storm Lake, Iowa.
“This clinic is a hidden gem in the community. Storm Lake is a very culturally diverse area and we offer a myriad of services to our patients,” said Beaver. “We offer programs that help the underserved and underinsured patients afford health care services and medications.”
By increasing access to mental health care services in the community health center, Beaver believes area emergency departments will benefit by experiencing a decrease in the number of patients seeking psychiatric and mental health services from the ER.
Beaver’s initial interest in health care began in grade school; however, in junior high, a near family tragedy that Beaver considers the most influential event of her life, ultimately led her to a career in nursing.
“My dad was in an explosion at work. He was burned on about 80 percent of his body and had many broken bones. He was given excellent care in the burn unit in Springfield, IL. He spent about 3 ½ months in the hospital and several months thereafter recovering at home. Through this difficult experience, I became passionate about caring for others,” she explained.
Perhaps Beaver’s eventual shift from emergency medicine to a commitment in improving mental health services shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. During portions of the DNP program, her interest was piqued by Associate Professor Teresa (Tess) Judge-Ellis, a faculty member who is nationally board certified in family practice and psychiatry/mental health.
“Dr. Judge-Ellis was particularly influential. She taught the psychiatric and mental health content, and during that time I really developed a passion for working with those patients.”
Dr. Kerri Rupe, director of the college’s Family Nurse Practitioner program, also played a key role in enhancing Beaver’s educational experience at the UI.
“I am constantly amazed at how many of the professors are active in the profession and still working in clinical settings while they are teaching. Taking the most current methods of evidence-based practice and infusing that experience directly into the program showcases their expertise and makes the learning experience exceptional for the students.”