A Passion for Patient Care: Julia Means, CSM Community Health Ministry Nurse
Community Health Ministry nurses screen patients for high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes in places that they already frequent.
She was not standing in front of students in a classroom, but Julia
Means had an opportunity to do some teaching – and she gave a
On this spring morning, Julia, a Columbia St. Mary's (CSM) Community Health Ministry nurse, was a guest on the Eric Von “Morning Magazine” show on WMCS-AM radio in Milwaukee. A listener, Barbara, heard Julia speaking about the incidence of high blood pressure and diabetes among urban African-Americans – and the grand opening that day of a CSM Community-based Chronic Disease Management (CCDM) Wellness Site, a half-mile from Barbara’s home.
CCDM has two Wellness Sites to bring care to at-risk people in food pantries and churches – places where they are comfortable and already receive services. The program controls disease by promoting low-cost medication and education on cooking, nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation.
The radio interview was a call to act for Barbara, who had been having problems the past few months: a lot of thirst, frequent urination, and general fatigue. She was the first person to come for the health fair at the opening, and things started well; her blood pressure was fairly normal.
Julia and other community leaders celebrate the opening of another CCDM Wellness site.
The diabetes screening did not go as well. Barbara’s blood-sugar level of 500 (100 would be normal) prompted Julia to try three different devices to be sure that the reading was correct. Finally, she asked Barbara to go to a hospital for emergency care.
Barbara refused, as she was 60 years old, too young for Medicare, and
had no insurance and no ability to pay for such care. She did agree to
give Julia more medical history and allow the nurse to present her
condition to the on-call CCDM physician.
Julia was able to get a prescription to begin Barbara’s treatment for diabetes and, within an hour, got the medicine for Barbara to take. Soon Barbara began to feel better and decided to stay for the ribbon-cutting event, thanks to what she learned from Julia.
Julia says teaching is an important part of what she does for the people she serves through the Community Health Ministry. The nurses in the ministry work with churches and community organizations, providing health education, screening, care management, and support in crises to impoverished people.
Julia became interested in parish nursing while she was a nurse in an intensive care unit. There she saw many patients whose conditions became serious because they lacked health knowledge.
Julia has helped guide many at-risk and pregnant African-American young women through the Blanket of Love program.
“I thought that if I could get out there and do something, I could help
keep people out of intensive care,” says Julia, who has been a Community
Health Ministry nurse since receiving her parish nursing certification
from Marquette University in 1996.
As a CSM parish nurse, Julia serves Ebenezer Church of God in Christ, Solomon Community Methodist Church, and New Life Presbyterian Church in the central city. She also leads diabetes education classes at various sites and provides support to people at the Clinton Rose Senior Center and the Adult Learning Center (ALC), where she teaches two groups of students. At the ALC, Julia delivers health education and services to people who are taking classes toward the high school equivalency diplomas they need to find jobs. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee nursing students assist Julia and, in turn, learn lessons in care from her.
Julia developed CSM’s Blanket of Love program of prenatal care and parenting education. She leads meetings at Ebenezer Church on topics such as labor and delivery, nutrition, early childhood development, communication, and self-care principles including substance abuse, smoking, safe-sleep requirements, and exercise.
Julia shares her ministry at the COGIC Covenant signing that was held in the atrium of CSM Hospital Milwaukee.
Julia also helped develop CCDM after finding that 30 to 40 percent of the clients at the New Life food pantry had untreated hypertension -- and after two men in only their 40s, whom she had screened for high blood pressure, suffered strokes. Her idea was to establish a community clinic to furnish screening and manage blood pressure and diabetes among people who do not have health insurance.
CCDM will add two sites in central-city Milwaukee, in part because of CSM’s partnership with more than 40 Church of God in Christ (COGIC) churches in the Milwaukee area. In the COGIC Covenant, Julia, other CSM nurses, and community health workers are collaborating with church leaders and volunteers to provide health screening, education, and counseling to people in need.
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