Nursing wasn't Kristy Boese's first choice of study. She actually was majoring in education at the University of Montana in Missoula.
"But I had twins my sophomore year in college and had to be in the hospital for several days," says the 34-year-old Deer Lodge native. " I had some really great nurses take care of me and my children. I thought, ‘Now that's a job I would enjoy.'" So she switched to the nursing curriculum at Montana Tech’s College of Technology.
"I actually started out with getting my general requirements at Tech with the intention to transfer to MSU in Bozeman. Tech hadn't restarted its nursing program yet. But I was living in Deer Lodge, and after I had my general studies out of the way, Tech still didn't have the RN program going yet. So I decided to get my LPN at the Vo Tech Besides it was an easy commute and my mom and grandmother could watch the kids while I was gone."
Now, she's a nurse practitioner at Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge and no, it's not as scary as one might think, and it's not how fictional television shows portray it. In fact, it's pretty rewarding in Boese's eyes.
"These guys have a history of health problems just because of the rough lifestyle that they lead, from fights and car wrecks to psychological injuries. It's challenging. Many inmates have not had prior medical care."
Q. Why did you choose Montana Tech over other schools?
A. When I started back at Tech and they didn't have a bachelor's in nursing yet, a high school friend in engineering suggested it. I started out in the LPN program at the Vo Tech and thought it was really good because of the low student to teacher ratio. I came from UM where an average class was 250 and a TA was your instructor. The professors didn't know who you were. Here the professor has a personal interaction with the student. Another plus is that you can simply sign up for classes. At UM you're in line for two hours for everything … books, financial aid, etc.
Q. What is your proudest moment in your career?
A. I have had a lot of great moments that have come from the satisfaction of making a difference in a patient or family member's life. One of my best moments was saving a patient who was having a severe heart attack, but didn't realize it. He was close to death and didn't know it. It was a Saturday and he strolled into the Deer Lodge hospital complaining of chest pains.
He had "tombstone signs" as we say, and his EKG was off the charts. We got him on a blood clot dissolver and life-flighted him to Missoula. The cardiologist told him what a close call he had and that he owed me a world of thanks. That felt pretty good.
Also, I never thought I would work at the prison. It did not sound appealing and it made me nervous. I discovered I really liked it. The nurses do assessments, referrals and have a lot of autonomy. The nurses have standing protocols so they can give some over the counter drugs and do certain treatments. It helps keep costs down at the prison and keeps the public safe by keeping the inmates at the prison for most of their health care so they don't have to be transported to a community facility.
Q. What goals did you accomplish or a project that you are most proud of?
A. My biggest goal was returning to school after the birth of my twins and later being able to support them. I remember one of my boys telling my mom after I graduated, "We're rich now! We can buy GoGurt!"
Things were pretty tough going to school. I had two boys to raise and be a mom too. Some days my mom, Linda Spaulding, would come over the house at 5 a.m. to babysit because I had to be in Butte by 6 a.m. for classes. My grandma, Doris Hildebrand also watched the twins for me while I went to school. I am also very proud of the fact that I finished my master's degree. When I first started at Tech my goal was to be an RN, but the instructors at Tech built up my confidence and made me realize I could do anything I put my mind to.
One of the cool things about nursing in general is that there is a type of nursing job suited for just about any one. I just had to float around to see where my niche was.
The teachers at Tech were good at building your confidence, motivating you. I was scared at first about how hard it was going to be. I was afraid to stick a needle into someone. I never thought I would be able to go on to get my master's degree and be a nurse practitioner. But the teachers helped you overcome those fears.
Q. Tell us about some memorable college experience, either how it applies to your work today or just something that was fun for you at Tech.
A. I think the life-long friends I made while at Tech were the best thing about going there. I still talk to a lot of my classmates.
I would have to say the clinical experience was invaluable, too. It helps build your confidence. Now, as a nurse practitioner, I look back and say, "I remember this in the clinics. I know I can do this."
Some days it feels like your first day on the job. You're always learning.
Also, some of the classes were in the basement of the HPER complex at Tech. Coach Bob Green taught a class next door and you could hear him through the walls. It was pretty amusing.
Q. Who is a favorite hero to you, mentor, public, private and why?
A. The nursing instructors I had at Tech were all huge mentors and heroes to me. They made me feel like I could do whatever I put my mind to, and I ended up going on to get my master's degree, which I never would have done without their encouragement. Kelly Amtmann, Danette Melvin, Moe Brophy, Karen Van DaVeeer and Judy Russell. The nice thing about the faculty is that there is a wide range of personalities, so you find one you click with, really like, and they pushed you to succeed.
Q. How did Tech serve you in your past, current or even potential, future jobs? Give us some examples.
A. Graduating from Tech has given me a lot of self confidence. I know that no matter what happens in the future I have my degree to fall back on.
I still have a really good friend from LPN school that also finished her RN degree at Tech. She works at St. James Healthcare. We talk a lot about work.
Q. How do you stay connected to Montana Tech?
A. We have students from Tech who do a clinical rotation at the prison and I love getting to meet and talk to them. It is great to remember what it was like being a student and I love to encourage new nurses. Also, my sister-in-law completed tech in 2005 and husband went through in 2006, both in nursing. My sister graduated in 2005 with a degree in Technical communications.
Q. What advice would you give high school students who are considering entering college?
A. Even if you never work a day in the degree you choose, having a college education will always give you options in life. I see so many people struggling to make ends meet and working in jobs they don't like. Having a degree gives you bargaining power to get a job that you love. Go to college right after high school. The longer you wait the harder it will be to pay the bills and return to school. My husband went to college 13 years after high school. It took a lot of encouragement to get him to go because he felt like he had been out of school for too long.
Pick something you like. If you are not passionate for it, it will be torture. But, make sure the degree is marketable. With Tech, every degree is marketable.
Current address: 1172 Deer Haven Drive, Deer Lodge.
Job title and company you work for: Family nurse practitioner, Montana State Prison
Brief Work history: 1998-2004 Powell County Medical Center, Deer Lodge. Started as a Certified Nurses Aid and left as the OR Director
2004-Present: Montana State Prison. I have also worked a few per diem jobs at hospitals in the area including St. James and St. Peter's
Personal data: Spouse: Todd, Associate of Science Degree in Nursing- Montana Tech 2005; Sons, Caleb and Wyatt 13, Riley 7; Pets, too many to list.
Attended Tech: 1997-2001
The Montana Tech Basketball teams will be in Salt Lake City, Utah and Caldwell Idaho for games on Friday, November 27.
The No. 5 Montana Tech Orediggers travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a 2015 NAIA Football Championship Series Quarterfinal showdown with No. 4 Saint Francis at noon on Saturday, Nov. 28.