People donning headphones and workout clothes are not the only ones going in and out of FireLake Wellness Center’s doors. Along with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Title VI Program, the facility hosts Tribal Health Services programs including physical therapy and its diabetes initiative. Shelby Parsons joined the latter as a nurse and case manager, helping patients manage their diabetes. Parsons spoke to the Hownikan about her life and training.

Shelby Parsons works with diabetes patients at CPN Health Services and hopes to continue her career as a nurse practitioner.

Where are you from?

“I grew up in a small town called Vanoss, Oklahoma. It is between Stratford and Ada. I grew up on a ranch with horses and cattle and didn’t stray far from that as an adult.

“My husband and I run our own ranch now with 70 head of Corriente cattle, 10 roping and ranch horses, and one pet goat.”

Where did you go to high school and college?

“I went to high school partially at Vanoss until my junior year, and we moved to Tecumseh and I graduated from there in December 2010. I then went on to college with my now husband to Connors State College in Warner, Oklahoma, where we participated in college rodeo. I then came back home, married my high school sweetheart, began studying at Seminole State College and graduated with my associate degree in science of nursing in May of 2015.

“I was out of school for a few years, and recently went back to school a year and a half ago and graduated with my bachelor’s degree in science of nursing. I am currently in graduate school at Maryville University in pursuit of being a nurse practitioner.”

How did you decide to go into the medical field?

“I decided to go into the medical field and particularly nursing when I was 15, and my grandfather was very ill with the end stage of COPD. He was in and out of the hospital a lot during this time, and I would always stay with him and take care of him. Being in and out of the hospital and taking care of him while watching medical professionals and nurses sparked my interest to become a nurse so I could care for others too. I have always loved people, and becoming a nurse means I get to care for people every day, and I know my grandpa would be proud.”

Where did you work at before joining CPN Health Services?

“I worked at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital — Shawnee on the acute care floor for two years and was in the surgical department for about nine months also. It allowed me to gain valuable skills and confidence as a new nurse. I am thankful for my time at the hospital but even more thankful for the opportunity and career I have here at CPN.”

Tell me a bit about your day-to-day work as the registered nurse at the CPN Diabetes Program?

“I see anywhere from five to seven diabetes patients a day. We discuss their blood sugar control, diet, physical activity and overall health. I encourage them to make healthy food choices, be physically active, and work with them to monitor their blood sugars correctly.

“My program is called case management. They see me once a month, and we discuss their diabetes, set health goals, and if they meet requirements — like a healthy cooking demonstration, grocery store tours, physical activity, etc. — I issue them a nutrition voucher. It allows them to go to the grocery store and buy healthy foods.

“I often become a sounding board for whatever they are struggling with, and I enjoy this. I have a close bond with most of my patients, and I truly enjoy being able to help each and every one of them.”

What are some of the challenges that you see confronting your patients here compared to other health services you’ve worked in?

“One of the challenges I have had is getting the patient to realize how making small changes in their diet or beginning to exercise could really have an impact on their blood sugar. I have noticed that a lot of my patient’s don’t like change.

“I have had to learn to accept this and just provide encouragement for them to make the decision on their own.”

Learn more about CPN’s health services and diabetes initiative.