A nurse by heart

Burrowing deep into the heart of women’s health issues, Kristin Metcalf-Wilson leaves her mark
Friday, February 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:32 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

An African woman gives birth at a maternal HIV clinic in Cape Town, South Africa. Foreign doctors sweep her newborn away, and return shortly to tell her that her baby has died.

The mother accepts the news and hurries home to care for her four other children. She knows she must make the most of the time she has left — she has AIDS and no treatment is available.

Witnessing situations like this has changed Kristin Metcalf-Wilson’s perspective on life. Metcalf-Wilson, 33, a nurse practitioner and instructor of clinical nursing at the University of Missouri, Sinclair School of Nursing, has spent more than a decade sharing her unique perspective with patients, doctors, students and legislators.

While teaching Nursing 305: Women’s Health earlier this month, Metcalf-Wilson used this example to explain how people of other cultures, particularly Africans, react differently to certain medical situations.

“I’m just kind of drawn to that part of the world,” Metcalf-Wilson said. “I am spiritually inspired by these (African) people. We have a lot of material things, but we don’t have the same level of spiritual commitment to one another like they do there.”

For the past 11 years Metcalf-Wilson has been intensely involved with a variety of health issues at the local, state and national levels.

“As an experienced practitioner, it’s important to get the best and brightest coming in and don’t let them get discouraged,” Metcalf-Wilson said.

Metcalf-Wilson traveled to South Africa in late spring of 2001 for three weeks with the MU South Africa Exchange Program. While there, she spoke about domestic violence in the United States at the University of Western Cape, visited the nursing school and assisted with sexually transmitted disease education programs for youth at the Planned Parenthood in Cape Town.

This was not her first visit to Africa. In January 1991, Metcalf-Wilson traveled with The Gift for a New Eye, a Presbyterian church group, to several cities in South Africa and Zimbabwe for nearly a month.

She decided to travel to Africa because of her opposition to apartheid. She had previously protested the relationship between her school, Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn., and Coca-Cola, because the company had continued to do business in South Africa.

The number of health organizations Metcalf-Wilson is involved in is staggering. But according to her husband of nine years, Ric Wilson, she is involved with each as more than “just being a member.”

Metcalf-Wilson said that being involved with health policy is an obligation because it affects her patients, and she takes seriously her obligation to look out for their best interest.

“The title ‘nurse’ doesn’t exactly explain everything we can do,” Metcalf-Wilson said. “I think that a lot of people would say, ‘I’m a nurse by profession, but also by heart.’”

Metcalf-Wilson practices at the Planned Parenthood in Columbia and teaches nursing courses on the MU campus and online in the evenings.

Nationally, she is on the Women’s Health Advisory Panel for the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.

At the state level, Metcalf-Wilson was appointed to the Governor’s Council on Health and Physical Fitness for a two-year term, which began in May 2002.

Involvement in these groups allows Metcalf-Wilson to witness first hand the effects of health policy changes and budget cuts. In September, she could no longer treat her 300 patients at the Well Women Clinic in Monroe County because the Alternatives to Abortion program was eliminated.

Deb Gayer, a fellow instructor at MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing, says there’s a reason Metcalf-Wilson is chosen for all these positions.

“Some people have a better flare for working with legislators,” Gayer said. “She has a specialty with that; she knows how to talk to legislators.”

During the 1999 holiday season, Gayer and Metcalf-Wilson worked many late nights and weekends at Metcalf-Wilson’s home to obtain the three-year Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program Health Resource and Services Administration Training Grant.

The $900,600 grant allowed the UM system to offer nurse practitioner courses online.

As a chairman of seventh district of the Missouri Coalition of Nurses in Advance Practice, Metcalf-Wilson is able to keep up with former students, many of whom are now members.

“She’s just one of those teachers you can just relate to,” said Marcy Markes, a friend and former student. “She wasn’t your typical professor; she comes in laughing, smiling and brings us up-to-date.”

Markes, 34, has now been a nurse practitioner in allergy and asthma for four years at the Allergy and Asthma Consultants of the Ozarks.

Despite her hectic schedule, Metcalf-Wilson tries to keep her evening meetings to once a week so that she can be home with her “munchkins,” Forrest, 4, and Adam, 1. Her favorite motherly activity is to read Dr. Seuss books at bedtime.

Metcalf-Wilson first became interested in nursing around age 15 or 16 when she witnessed a birth at Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott, Kan., during a visit with her high school Explorer group. Her junior year in college, she decided to pursue a career in nursing, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.

Metcalf-Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in health care from Maryville College in 1992 and obtained a master’s in nursing at Vanderbilt University. After completing her master’s program, Metcalf-Wilson practiced at the Mercy Pregnancy Care Clinic in Hot Springs, Ark., before arriving in Columbia in 1997.

Leaving her patients in Arkansas was difficult, but the opportunity to teach MU students was too good.

“I have a particular passion for women’s health, and I hope the way I practice is an inspiration to people,” Metcalf-Wilson said. “Hopefully, my passion motivates others to get involved with women’s health.”

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