Medical care for her community
By Coleman Cornelius | Jan. 1, 2023
DURING THE HEIGHT of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelly McLean worked as a nurse in the intensive care unit at Parkview Medical Center, the main hospital in Pueblo. Fully clad in protective clothing and equipment, she attended many deaths, holding the hands of her patients and comforting them during family farewells by video.
“I remember a grandson saying goodbye to his grandfather – ‘Thank you for teaching me to fish,’” McLean said, her eyes filling with tears. “It’s unimaginable to be in a room with a patient and be the only person there, and you know their family can’t be with them.”
Yet, through the suffering and grief, McLean saw something else: the vital role of medicine and medical practitioners in the community. She already had earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from CSU Pueblo, graduating summa cum laude; that degree, along with licensure as a registered nurse, allowed her to work at the local hospital. Now, she was pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice – while working as an ICU nurse during the most serious public health crisis in a century.
HOW SHE PAID
- Federal nursing grant
- Multiple scholarships
- Work at local hospital
- Expects to be debt-free in three years
“It pushed me into primary care practice because I wanted to be able to prevent disease processes that put people in the ICU,” McLean said of her experience during the pandemic. “I want to be the best and most knowledgeable I can be for my patients because they deserve the best care they can get.”
Last spring, she was one of the first three students to complete the recently established Doctor of Nursing Practice program at CSU Pueblo. With her degree and board certifications in clinical practice, McLean is prepared to deliver the same kind of care provided by a family medical doctor, including preventive medicine and remedies for acutely ill patients of all ages.
Even before graduation, she landed a job as a nurse practitioner at Pueblo Community Health Center. There, she delivers primary medical care for children and adults from low-income households.
The work fits well with her altruism. McLean is an active community volunteer and has made several medical mission trips to Mexico and Haiti with her father, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon in Pueblo.
McLean grew up thinking she wanted to follow her dad’s path and attend medical school. But she realized a Doctor of Nursing Practice would allow her to do the work she sought – and finish school quicker, at less expense.
“It’s always been my goal to help people and make a difference,” she said. “I feel like I can accomplish great things. I have the ability to practice medicine, not just for my patient, but for my community.”
Photo at top: Kelly McLean, 32, from Pueblo, graduated from CSU Pueblo in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, followed in Spring 2022 with a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She works as a nurse practitioner at Pueblo Community Health Center. Photo: Mary Neiberg.