Rural Health Initiative in Outagamie County Names New Leader

Amanda Hatch

Amanda Hatch Brings Nursing, Education Backgrounds to New Role

For Amanda Hatch, joining the new Rural Health Initiative in Outagamie County is an ideal fit since it combines her love of nursing with education.

The Rural Health Initiative, which was started in Shawano County in 2003 and expanded to Outagamie and Waupaca counties earlier this year, brings healthcare to the farm as nurses meet one-on-one with farm families, providing them with free health information, education, and referrals to area services while listening to their health concerns

“Going to the farms and meeting there with farmers and their families provide a much more relaxed and personal environment where people are free to express their concerns,” said Hatch, who holds degrees in education and nursing. “I really enjoy working one-on-one with people and this position combines both my teaching and nursing knowledge.”

Hatch, a native of Texas, received a degree in education from Texas A&M University and a nursing degree from Southern Illinois University. Hatch and her husband, Nick, then moved to Montana where he worked at a church and she was a nurse in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The couple recently moved to the Appleton area when Hatch’s husband was named an associate pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Appleton. The couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Maddi, and is looking forward to putting down roots in the community.

The Rural Health Initiative was initially launched by ThedaCare and Shawano Medical Center in Shawano County in response to the growing need for health services among farmers and their families. Since most farmers are self-employed, they either lack health insurance or they have policies with high deductibles, Hatch said. In addition, she said farmers are very busy and don’t often live close to a medical provider.

“Farmers often place their own health on the back burner as they deal with all of the demands that come with life on the farm.  I hope to get the word out that the Rural Health Initiative was designed specifically for them to meet their needs,” Hatch said. “I hope to develop relationships, see these farmers year after year, and give them all the knowledge I have as a nurse to improve their health whether it is physically, emotionally or spiritually.”

Hatch hopes to replicate the success the Rural Health Initiative has had in Shawano County and is looking to spread the word about the program.

“Many farmers don’t seek out preventative care so they might have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes and not even know it,” she said. “This program is so very important because we are able to catch these types of things and refer them to a healthcare provider or provide them with information to make lifestyle changes before they develop into serious and more costly problems. The home visits can undoubtedly change the course of their future wellness. “

The Rural Health Initiative received several awards in the past few months. The community health program was one of five honored in the nation with the American Hospital Association NOVA Award in July. Earlier this month, the Rural Health Initiative received the 2012 Global Vision Community Partnership Award from the Wisconsin Hospital Association Foundation and the Healthcare Hero Award from the Wolf Area Healthcare Foundation, which supports New London Medical Center.

During a first-time visit, the nurse will take blood samples and run a quick set of tests that test cholesterol and glucose levels and measure blood pressure and determine body mass index to determine if the person is overweight. “It’s just like the health risk assessment tests many people receive at work as part of their insurance coverage,” Hatch said.

The nurse goes over the results and then talks about basic health issues, such as getting more exercise, safety issues, eating healthfully and more. If the tests reveal any concerns, such as high blood pressure, the nurse helps them connect with a medical provider if they don’t have one they regularly see.

“Meeting at their home can be a real difference-maker,” Hatch said.  “I look forward to meeting with farmers and finding out what their concerns are and then working with them to address their needs.”

While Hatch is taking on the coordinator role in Outagamie County for the Rural Health Initiative, Michelle Kaczorowski of Bear Creek and a former school nurse, was recently hired to oversee the program in Waupaca County. Dawn Dingeldein is the nurse in Shawano County who sees farmers while executive director Rhonda Strebel oversees the program in all three counties.

For more information about the Rural Health Initiative, please visit www.wiruralhealth.org.

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, ThedaCare At Work, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.