Two experienced health care professionals bring talents to JCMH
Story and photo by Dennis Sharkey
Jefferson County Memorial Hospital’s two newest staff members bring more than 60 combined years of experience to the county.
Melynda Swoyer, MSN – APRN, is coming back to where she started her career.
“It really is full circle for me,” she said.
Swoyer grew up in Cummings and went to work at the hospital in 1980 as a nurse aide. She met her husband, Karl, while working there.
Swoyer lived in Winchester with her husband and four children for more than 25 years before moving to Oskaloosa two years ago.
In 1982 Swoyer graduated as an LPN and in 1990 graduated from Stormont-Vail with an associate degree in nursing and became an RN.
In 2007 she obtained her bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Kansas. In 2010 she obtained her master of science in nursing from KU.
Swoyer said it took nearly 30 years to complete her schooling because raising her children came first.
“Being a mom was always very important to me and I didn’t want my children to have to take a back seat,” Swoyer said. “The nice thing about nursing is that you can suit your education to fit your lifestyle at the time.”
In obtaining her master’s degree Swoyer always had a goal in mind of returning back to her home.
“My goal was to be back in my community again,” Swoyer said. “I like being involved in the community and I like being supportive.”
While her children were in school she spent 10 years as the JCN Booster Club president and was a cheer leading sponsor.
Swoyer said the the most enjoyable part of her job is what she considers the most important. Education.
She believes that especially in rural areas, educating patients is the key to a healthier community.
“I love teaching,” she said. “If you can educate patients about what’s going on with them in a way that they really understand what’s going on with them, they then take some ownership and they’re not so dependent on a provider to fix them.”
Swoyer comes to Jefferson County from the cardiology office at Cotton-O’Neil, Stormont-Vail Healthcare. She previously spent 18 years in the intensive care unit at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and as a clinical coordinator. She has also worked for James H. McMechan D.O., in Oskaloosa.
Dr. Mary Rardin was born and raised in Topeka and received her medical degree from the University of Kansas in 1977.
After an internship Rardin joined the Navy and spent three years as a medical officer to help pay back the costs of school. She was stationed in Groton, Conn.
From there she moved back to Kansas to finish her family practice residency in Wichita and was board certified in family medicine in 1983.
Rardin spent about 20 years working in the urban area before moving to a rural setting. She spent 10 years working at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City and eight years working with the homeless and uninsured in Leavenworth, Kansas City and St. Joseph, Mo.
The past five years Rardin has been a traveling doctor. She worked for Docs Who Care out of Olathe and staff in uninsured clinics and rural ER rooms.
Since 1983 Rardin has been a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison where she currently lives.
She is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and takes special interest in women’s health and geriatric care.
Both women bring experience that is valuable to a rural hospital. Rardin spent time working in rural ER units in addition to rural clinics.
Rardin said working in rural clinics the last five years has taught her that she belongs in a rural setting.
“I think it will add a lot to the experience here,” she said about her five years working in rural areas. “I learned a lot and I’ve learned that I like working in a rural area.”
Rardin said the biggest difference between working in an urban hospital and a rural area is standard of care. She said rural hospitals and clinics struggle to keep up.
“It’s a hurdle that a lot of rural hospitals are trying to meet,” Rardin said.
Swoyer, who has also worked in rural clinics in Douglas County, said the uninsured and even under-insured at least have some access to medical care through partnerships at hospitals.
“We have no real safety net clinic to help those patients,” Swoyer said. “That creates a challenge when you have somebody come in and they can’t afford to buy medicines or see a specialist.”
“Or even get the blood tests or X-rays that are needed,” Rardin added.
Swoyer said county health services are networked within counties, and patients in Jefferson County cannot seek help with healthcare in other counties. Besides, the hospitals in urban areas are struggling to meet the needs of their people.
“It’s not the same as having a network to help these uninsured or underinsured patients,” Swoyer said.
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