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An educated patient is a healthy patient.
That’s the motto Michelle Dickens lives by in her role as nurse practitioner and asthma educator at CoxHealth’s Ferrell-Duncan Clinic.
“I have a passion for educating patients about their disease and how to properly use their medications, because the majority of asthma management happens in the home,” Dickens says.
As medicine and science evolves, new treatments for this common disease – which impacts approximately one in 10 southwest Missourians, Dickens says – require constant training for practitioners and patients. She not only educates patients but also keeps co-workers up-to-date on operating new equipment and administering medication.
Combining her medical and educator roles, Dickens identifies patients who are lacking proper asthma treatment and connects them with care and resources to increase their quality of life.
“So many patients don’t receive routine preventive checkups for their asthma. Instead, they wait until they are very sick and visit emergency departments or urgent care centers,” she says. “Getting those patients in for asthma education and ongoing care is a win-win for everyone, with healthier patients and reduced cost of health care.”
Dickens’ reach extends beyond Springfield. As a faculty member for Impact Asthma ECHO, or Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, a program of the University of Missouri’s Missouri Telehealth Network, she networks with other specialists, encourages legislative efforts and helps initiate programs in clinics and schools.
“This group emphasizes the grass-roots approach to get community groups involved,” she says. “We have been working locally with the Drew Lewis Foundation Inc. to implement home environmental assessments to identify potential asthma triggers in the homes of our lower-income asthma patients.”
Dickens also spearheaded a program that allows her to provide asthma checkups through telemedicine.
“We will be launching school-based telemedicine asthma clinics in the near future,” she says. “This will allow even better collaboration with school nurses, who are vital in identifying and managing children who are struggling with their asthma control.”
Additionally, Dickens participates in asthma screening events and health fairs and delivers lectures on her specialty at Missouri State University and University of Missouri School of Medicine’s Springfield campus. Dickens also has delivered presentations for The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Dickens has a front-row seat to the betterment of asthma care as she leads the fight in Missouri. However, the greatest victories are moments one-on-one with a patient whose life has been forever changed – such as one mother who told Dickens she finally can sleep through the night without worrying for her child’s life.
“Doing asthma care is so rewarding,” Dickens says. “Because you can truly change a patient’s life for the better.”
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