Michelle Kaczorowski knows farmers have a difficult time meeting their own health care needs. The time commitment to the farm or health insurance deductibles may make it hard for them to make time to get a check-up.
“It’s the last thing on the priority list,” said Kaczorowski of Bear Creek, a registered nurse. “If they don’t take care of themselves, who’s going to be there to take care of the cows and the field work the next day?”
She is hoping to make things easier for them by going to the farm to conduct free medical check-ups as the new Rural Health Initiative nurse in Waupaca County. The program, which was started in Shawano County in 2003 and expanded to Outagamie County, 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.“Everyone goes to the farmer’s home,” she said, noting visits by the milk man and veterinarian. “Farmers are used to people coming to them. We’re going to bring the health care to them and make it easier for them to do their job.”
Kaczorowski started her role earlier this month. She spent 20 years as a school nurse in Clintonville, and also covered Manawa and Weyauwega Fremont School District. “I have a lot of contacts in the Waupaca area,” she said. “I know so many people through their children.”
She is taking over the role from Shirley Yaeger, who Kaczorowski also knew during their careers as school nurses. “I guess I’m still following in her footsteps,” she said. “The next step is retirement, which is what she is doing now.”
She knows timing could be an issue in helping rural families. “Farmers are really busy in the spring and the fall,” she said. “Getting them to even find the time to see me might be a little difficult.”
But she hopes promotion and encouragement from others in the farming community won’t make it such an obstacle.
During the home visits, Kaczorowski can do simple blood work, blood pressure checks and talk to the farmers about their lifestyle, like diet and stress factors. “I’m kind of like a health coach, too, in some ways,” she said, noting that she will help identify problems and talk about ways to address them, from diet and exercises changes to recommending a visit to the doctor for more follow up.
Kaczorowski is excited for the role and hopes to reach out to as many farmers and families as she can so she can help them “lead a healthier life and therefore be happier and continue to be productive.”
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. Amanda Hatch is the new Rural Health Initiative nurse in Outagamie County.
Kaczorowski graduated from Carroll/Columbia College with a bachelor of science degree in nursing. She and her husband Steve have lived on a farm in Bear Creek for 15 years and are raising four children: Joe, Jake, Kellynn, and Kade. Their oldest son raises chickens and is active in the Manawa FFA. Their daughter showed a steer at the Waupaca County fair this year.
To contact Michelle Kaczorowski for more information about the Rural Health Initiative or to make an appointment, call (920) 538-3936.