by Traci Chapman
For Karen McKeever, nursing is about helping the most vulnerable, those who might struggle with getting the help they need.
It’s a philosophy that’s led her to treat thousands of patients and help spearhead an ever-expanding effort to lead patients having difficulty finding their to way discover the right path.
“It just seemed like the people who might need help the most are often overlooked – it’s the people without insurance or who are struggling not only with physical issues, but also mental health challenges,” McKeever said. “They need someone who can be there for them in their corner, to let them know they’re not facing this all alone.”
That kind of nurturing spirit comes easy to McKeever, a mother of six who now has nine grandchildren – and a nurse who worked in pediatrics and as a Yukon Public Schools nurse, concentrating on severely disabled students. Looking out not only for the young, but also the disabled and those who might not have an advocate became McKeever’s life work, a passion that led to an organization aimed at doing just that.
It was originally Canadian County Health Access Network, started in 2011 by McKeever and fellow nurse Rosemary Klepper.
“So many Sooner Care patients don’t know where to go or how to best address their health issues – you see many going to the emergency room when there are better avenues available, and you find families that are dealing with problems that go far beyond basic health or physical disease or distress,” McKeever said.
“There was just a huge gap in service, a real need for these patients and for their families, who were not being taken care of or served,” she said. “We knew how important it was for them to have someone they could turn to – as nurses, we needed to be there not only to treat them but to guide them and help with whatever challenges they were facing.”
It wasn’t long, however, before McKeever and Klepper’s philosophy caught on, and patients beyond El Reno, Yukon, Mustang and other area communities began to ask for assistance. That’s why CC-HAN’s “CC” soon transitioned from Canadian County to , Central Communities, with co-founder and care manager McKeever and fellow care manager Rhonda Chronister now available to SoonerCare patients and their families across south central Oklahoma, working to improve their health and healthcare options and much more.
“Rosemary (Klepper) decided it was time to retire, to explore other things, but my heart is here, I didn’t want to walk away,” McKeever said. “That’s when Rhonda came onboard, and it’s been a great arrangement.”
For her part, Chronister said she views McKeever not only as a co-worker, fellow care manager and nurse, but also as a mentor who has spurred on Chronister’s own love of nursing and helping patients far beyond regular nursing duties.
“Karen is an amazing person and an amazing nurse, and it’s a remarkable opportunity to work with her and learn from her,” Chronister said. “Her capacity for love and how she gives of herself is inspirational to everyone who knows her, particularly the people we serve.”
McKeever has always envisioned something bigger for CC-HAN, which led to the agency helping patients not only locate the right caregiver and treatment, but also issues that might aggravate physical ailments. That’s why CC-HAN provides care management to patients not only facing financial constraints that can limit their ability to get the medical treatment they might need, but also those who deal with complex health issues, as well as providing a proactive approach – guiding patients to the right resources for well child examinations and care, injury and accident prevention, diet and nutrition and accessible medical and dental care.
“What the patient might need at any particular moment might not be ‘nursing’ services, but rather they might not have gas money to get to an appointment or they might not have any food in the cupboards – and that disrupts the treatment they need,” McKeever said. “That’s the bottom line – making sure they are healthy and able to live their lives and do what they need to do, because someone who’s dealing with a mental health issue can have a ripple effect on their entire family, and that family might need guidance in how to help and to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact others, either mentally or physically.”
It’s a philosophy that’s not only challenging and fulfilling, but also always interesting, McKeever said. She never knows what she might face in any given day – whether it will be assisting patients with medical care options, educating families about CC-HAN’s resources or even delivering food to someone who is hungry and doesn’t know where to turn.
“What we do is everything that’s the best of nursing – helping people who truly need it and giving that care, that guidance – as a nurse, it’s so fulfilling and inspirational, and to me it’s what our profession is all about,” McKeever said. “To me, if you’re a nurse, you’re always a nurse – it’s not something you do, it’s something you are.”
For more information about Central Communities Health Access Network, its services or philosophy, look online at www.cc-han.com.