24 Jun HDH Family Care welcomes Mary Schimmelpfennig
Harney District Hospital (HDH) Family Care clinic is pleased to welcome Mary Schimmelpfennig, a family nurse practitioner (FNP) who started seeing patients in April.
As an FNP, Schimmelpfennig is a primary-care provider for patients of all ages.
“We get to provide care to people across their lifespan — from 3-day-old babies to individuals in their 90s,” Schimmelpfennig said regarding FNPs. “We provide care for any aspect of medicine that they might need.”
Because she started her career as an FNP in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schimmelpfennig has already had a unique opportunity to go above and beyond for her patients.
“It is an extremely challenging time — not only medically, but mentally — for people with the isolation and the stay-at-home order and things like that. I’ve tried to kind of use it as an opportunity to help people and reassure them that we really are all in this together, and we just have to take it day-by-day and give each other grace and give ourselves grace as we’re dealing with everything,” she said.
Having the opportunity to provide support for patients and their families in a time of need is what got Schimmelpfennig interested in healthcare in the first place.
Aside from receiving routine checkups, Schimmelpfennig hadn’t spent much time in medical facilities until she was a freshman in high school. That’s when she lost her grandmother.
“In the midst of a terrible family loss, I was really impressed — even as a high schooler — with the compassion and care that the nurses provided her, which kind of started my interest in medicine,” Schimmelpfennig explained.
The next winter, Schimmelpfennig had to have her appendix removed, which required an overnight stay in the hospital.
“I had to miss my winter formal dance, and as a 15-year-old girl that’s pretty devastating,” she said. However, she added that, “The nurses that night made me feel so special. They were just so wonderful to me.”
Those two positive experiences served as a launch pad for Schimmelpfennig’s career.
After graduating from high school in Wilsonville (which is between Portland and Salem), Schimmelpfennig attended nursing school at the University of Portland. She completed nursing school in 2011 and started looking for work in the Portland area. Unfortunately, she had trouble finding an employer who was willing to give a new nurse a chance.
Her luck turned around when her sister-in-law (who grew up in Harney County) emailed her a job listing for a position at the Harney County Health Department. At first, Schimmelpfennig was hesitant to make the move, but she had a change of heart and went to work for the health department in March 2012.
After a short time, she realized that she wanted to offer a more acute level of care, so she moved across the street to HDH where she worked as a floor nurse for seven years. She even served as a manager for a stint.
During that time, she met, fell in love with, and married a cowboy who moved to Harney County from Eagle, Idaho to work at a local ranch. When she married her husband, Katlen, Schimmelpfennig gained a stepdaughter, Scout.
“She lives with us and goes to school at Slater Elementary, and she’s amazing,” Schimmelpfennig said regarding Scout. “She has a huge heart. She’s a very sweet little girl.”
The couple welcomed another girl, Audrey, in December.
While she was working as a nurse and growing her family, Schimmelpfennig was also advancing her education. She attended Simmons University — which is based in Boston, Mass. — through an online program and earned a Master of Science in Nursing. Schimmelpfennig was able to complete her clinical rotations under Dr. Sarah Laiosa, Dr. Eva McCarthy, and FNP Amanda Jewell at home in Harney County.
She took her examination to become a board-certified nurse practitioner just two weeks after giving birth to Audrey.
“I was up pretty much all night in the hotel room in La Grande because she wouldn’t sleep, and then I went and took my exam,” Schimmelpfennig said. “I actually don’t know how I did that.”
Now that she’s working as an FNP at HDH Family Care, Schimmelpfennig said she’s realizing more every day that she chose the correct career path and place to practice.
“It feels right,” she said. “I am honored and thankful that the community is willing to trust me with their own health and the health of their loved ones, and I will do everything I can to support and be there for them.”
She added, “I love this community. We’ve created such a wonderful group of friends, and we have a really strong support system. I think we’re really lucky to have the people who we have in our lives, and I’m happy to be here.”
When she isn’t busy working, Schimmelpfennig enjoys cooking, baking, traveling, camping, and spending time with her family.
To learn more about the providers at HDH Family Care, call 541-573-2074.