In light of the nationwide shortage of primary care providers, MCHC Health Centers is pleased to announce it has expanded access to medical care in the community by welcoming its newest advanced practice provider, family nurse practitioner Jacque Dotson.
Dotson is no stranger to rural medicine. She grew up in a small Utah town of 1,500 people, where her grandmother served as a nurse at the town’s sole medical facility–a combination critical access hospital and nursing home. “From the time I was five, I would go with my grandma and help feed the residents. And my cousin and I would do piano recitals and dance for them,” she said.
At 15, Dotson became a certified nursing assistant. She cared for nursing home residents and hospital patients, taking vitals, drawing blood, doing x-rays, and helping with daily bedside care. After high school, she became a registered nurse.
“Where I lived, our hospital had one nurse, one doctor, and a couple of aides on duty to take care of the town,” she said. “When I was 23, my grandfather came in in full cardiac arrest. Our hospital saw maybe two of these a year. I had taken advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), but I hadn’t had a chance to practice much. Our town was split by a railroad and the doctor got caught on the other side of the tracks. I had to take care of my own family member; I was the only [clinician] in the building. He didn’t make it and I thought it was my fault.”
Dotson later understood that no one could have saved her grandfather. But the experience catalyzed her desire to learn emergency medicine, which she quickly came to love. She spent 20 years working as a trauma nurse in hospitals and as a member of a life flight crew on fixed and rotor wing air ambulances.
In 2016, she began considering the sustainability of her current schedule. She had grown accustomed to the independence of trauma nursing and didn’t think she’d enjoy returning to the bedside, so she went back to school to become a nurse practitioner. She is now board-certified as a family nurse practitioner and an emergency nurse practitioner and says she is excited to bring her love of medicine to Lake and Mendocino Counties. “This is my passion. Medicine is about taking care of people–treating every patient as though they are your family. Every patient is someone’s mom, dad, brother, sister, spouse – somebody’s person. I want to take care of each patient like I would take care of my person,” she explained.
She chose MCHC Health Centers because, having worked most recently in a large, multi-state hospital system, she wanted to return to a locally managed health center where employees care deeply about their work and their community. “When my husband and I came to visit MCHC, every person I talked to loved their job and they were all so friendly. I was like, ‘Is someone paying you to say all these nice things?’” she quipped.
She ran into one MCHC provider who had previously worked as a traveler (going from health center to health center to fill in on a short-term basis). After serving as a traveler for MCHC, he told Dotson MCHC was the best place he had ever worked and he gave up being a traveler to become a full-time MCHC employee.
Dotson said she looks forward to working with the diverse team of MCHC providers and learning about the community resources available for patients so she can provide the best possible care.
“I am honored and excited to be part of this team. I love the focus on treating the whole person, not just the disease. I can’t wait to contribute to and learn from the team,” she said. Dotson characterizes her approach to medicine as one of honesty, education, and respect for each patient’s right to make their own decisions.
“I will tell you your problem and support you through it. I will tell you the consequences of your actions–and I believe in your right to choose your own treatment (or no treatment). If you are overweight, for example, I might tell you how it could endanger your health, put you at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. I might talk with you about diet and how to change your lifestyle to improve your health. But if you choose to continue to eat poorly and not to make alterations, that’s your call. Next time I see you, I will not dismiss you or make you feel guilty. I will work with you to figure out where we go from here,” she said.
She encourages patients to ask questions, and if she does not have the answer she says she will find it. She wants patients to be open with her about their beliefs and attitudes toward medicine and healing, and that she is open to researching alternatives. “Some people say they don’t like traditional medicine or that they don’t want to take medication for their condition. That’s fine. Some herbal remedies have been proven effective. I’m open. If a treatment plan doesn’t work for the patient, it’s useless. A plan has to be based around the patient’s goals, not mine,” she said.
MCHC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matt Swain said Dotson’s experience and approach to patient care make her a wonderful fit for the MCHC team. Dotson will be seeing patients for same-day appointments at MCHC facilities.
MCHC Health Centers includes Hillside Health Center and Dora Street Health Center in Ukiah, Little Lake Health Center in Willits, and Lakeview Health Center in Lakeport. It is a community-based and patient-directed organization that provides comprehensive primary healthcare services as well as supportive services such as education and translation that promote access to healthcare.