Hospital Week Profile: Shelley Paulsen, LPN



Hospital Week Profile: Shelley Paulsen, LPN

It doesn’t take too long of a visit to learn what really makes Shelley Paulsen light up – it’s all about family for her. Whether it’s her biological family or the work family she has developed after over 20 years at Atlantic Medical Center, it is clear that the two are intertwined and both are very important to Shelley.

As a child, Shelley loved growing up in a household of five children, which included her twin sister, Lisa, two other sisters and a brother. Her father farmed and her mother ran the medical clinic in Exira, which at the time was a part of Atlantic Medical Center and staffed by Dr. Tom Payne. Perhaps it was their mother’s career that first got Lisa interested in nursing, and when she started talking about it,
Shelley thought she should give it a try, too. The sisters went off to Grandview University together, but after one year Shelley transferred to Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny so she could get her LPN degree. As she said, “I had a boy waiting for me and I wanted to get home as soon as I could!” 24 years and three kids later, it seems like that worked out well for her!

Shelley spent a couple years working in a nursing home but when her mother told her about an opening for a nurse in the Atlantic Medical Center main clinic, she was quick to apply and very happy to get the job. She worked for about a year as the Immunization Nurse and then worked with Dr. John Weresh until his retirement, when she started working with Scott Hixson, PA-C, who she is still with today. And just like at home, her work family is very important to her. As she says, “I work with a great group of people—we’re like a family here!” As Shelley’s own children grew up and became very active in school activities, she always appreciated that her work family would step in so she never had to miss watching her kids compete. Now that her children are grown, Shelley is ready to pay the favors forward to her co-workers, “I’m more than happy to be sure they are there to watch their children, just like I got to!”

Shelley truly enjoys the patients and families she cares for at the medical center. “I always try to treat them with respect and kindness, to let them know they are important to me,” she noted. “I love the relationships I’ve been able to develop over the years. It’s especially fun to see the babies I cared for bring their babies in to see us!”

A lot has changed in medicine since Shelley started her career. “The care we give is the same, but there are a lot more hoops to jump through with insurance companies. It can be frustrating for our patients when there are bumps in the road because an insurance company no longer covers the medication they’ve been on, or when we have to get everything preauthorized. I try to make it as smooth as possible for our patients.”

One tool to make the process go more smoothly is the electronic medical record, or EMR, which is another thing that has changed dramatically during Shelley’s career. Atlantic Medical Center has actually used computers as part of their record keeping system for a very long time, starting with a system Dr. Payne developed himself. As EMRs have become more complex and a key part of every medical clinic and hospital, Atlantic Medical Center has expanded and upgraded their EMR. Shelley has played a key role in each upgrade, working to “build” the systems, which means customizing the software specifically for clinic’s needs and staff preferences, She also serves as a super user—an in-house expert who assists other staff in learning and troubleshooting the EMR system. “I love working with the EMR! I’ve learned so much and I like helping my co-workers learn it.” Shelley knows a strong EMR system is important for her patients, because it makes so much information very easy for caregivers to access and helps the patient care team to be better prepared when patients come in the clinic. As Cass County Health System is preparing to transition to a new EMR system the end of the year, Shelley is once again leading the way as a super user.

When she finished nursing school 25 years ago, Shelley couldn’t imagine what a rich and rewarding career she was about to embark on. The relationships she’s built, the joy of caring for second generations of families, the satisfaction of helping her co-workers with new technology—it all works together to create the sense of family at work. And it’s been a wonderful family for Shelley to be a part of. “Honestly, there’s never been a day when I wasn’t happy to get to come to work!”

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