Megan Knutson APRN Joins JCH&L Staff

Megan Knutson, DPN, APRN, FNP-BC, joined the Jefferson Community Health & Life team on June 7.

Knutson is a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska Medical Center with a Doctorate in Nursing Practice, and passed her boards in May. Knutson is board certified in family practice through the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

“My medical care will focus on prevention, getting to know people, and treating patients and families as a whole,” Knutson said.

Knutson graduated from Kearney Catholic High School, and received her bachelor of science in nursing from Nebraska Methodist College. She said she had started toward a degree in physical therapy, but decided nursing was where she was meant to be. After working as a nurse, she was ready for growth and additional challenges in her field, and chose to pursue the nurse practitioner degree.

JCH&L’s CEO Burke Kline, DHA, CHFP, FACHE, said JCH&L is excited to add a new mid-level practitioner, and is also pleased to be adding its first Nurse Practitioner.

“Our current goal to best serve our community is to have 4 physicians and 6 mid-level practitioners, which may be certified physician assistants or board certified nurse practitioners. We are pleased to add Megan to our excellent team of providers,” Kline said.

Once she completes her orientation to JCH&L, Knutson will offer both clinic appointments and ER coverage.

JCH&L recently lost Tyler and Kelsey Maguire, both certified physician assistants, who took positions in their hometown area of Columbus, Ne. Doug Ruzicka, PA-C, retired early in 2021 after 35 years of service to JCH&L, and 40 years of service in Fairbury.

“We were sorry to lose Tyler and Kelsey, but understand their desire to be closer to family. We were also sorry to lose Doug, but know how much he deserves his retirement,” Kline said. “We are currently working to bring our mid-level staffing up to our goal.”

Knutson and her husband, Travis, have two daughters: Emerson, 4, and Quinn, 2. Travis works for FivServe as an implementations analyst, and works from home.

Outside of work, Knutson said the family enjoys parks and swimming.

“I look forward to getting to know people and getting to know the community,” Knutson said.

With the addition of Knutson, JCH&L’s medical providers will include three board-certified family medicine physicians and three certified mid-level practitioners (PAs and Nurse Practitioner) with one shared goal: supporting you and your family’s health for life. Our team includes: Dr. Craig Shumard, Dr. Rebecca Stroklund, Dr. Brett Wergin (all board-certified family medicine providers); certified physician assistants Jessica Borrenpohl PA-C, and Kensly Williams PA-C; and Nurse Practitioner Megan Knutson APRN.

JCH&L Fairbury Clinic is accepting new patients.

For appointments with Knutson or the other JCH&L Fairbury Clinical family medicine providers, call 402-729-3361, option 1.

Change in JCH&L Medical Staff

Dr. Rick Blatny Jr. is no longer employed at Jefferson Community Health & Life.

Burke Kline, DHA, CHFP, FACHE, said that because this is a personnel issue, no details will be released.

The Fairbury Clinic will be contacting patients about previously scheduled appointments and giving patients the opportunity to re-schedule. Appointments will be available with Craig Shumard, MD; Rebecca Stroklund, DO; Brett Wergin MD; Jessica Borrenpohl, PA-C; Megan Knutson, APRN; or Kensly Williams, PA-C.

Anyone with questions about scheduling should contact the Fairbury Clinic at 402-729-3361 (option 1.) For special medical needs contact Fairbury Clinic patient services at 402-587-5182.

JCH&L continues its ongoing physician recruitment efforts.

JCH&L Recognizes Dysphagia Month in June

Swallowing disorders – formally known as dysphagia – are estimated to affect nearly 510 million people worldwide. Swallowing problems may be the result of many medical conditions, and may affect people of any age.

Some common symptoms could include:

  • difficulty moving food from the front to the back of the mouth,
  • difficulty chewing,
  • food getting stuck in the mouth,
  • difficulty swallowing certain foods/drinks,
  • coughing or throat clearing while eating/drinking,
  • feeling like foods/pills are getting stuck, and/or
  • a wet vocal quality (e.g., a gurgling sound) after eating/drinking.

In order to diagnose dysphagia, a patient may have a modified barium swallow study – the patient eats or drinks food or liquid with barium in it and the swallowing process is viewed on an x-ray; or an endoscopy assessment – using a lighted scope inserted through the nose, the swallow can be viewed on a screen.

Amanda Carlson, M.S. CCC-SLP, does modified barium swallow studies at JCH&L with a radiologist.

If dysphagia is diagnosed, treatment may include exercises, generally with a speech therapist; education about strategies to reduce the risk of aspiration (including postural or positioning techniques, behavioral interventions or special equipment or utensils); and diet modifications.

“Swallowing is such an important part of our health and our life,” Carlson said. “If you have any concerns about your swallowing, contact your primary care physician.”

Ward Honored for 20 Years as Cedarwood Board Chairman

Homer Ward has retired after 20 years serving as chairman of the Cedarwood Assisted Living board. Ward was elected chairman of the first board in 2001, when Cedarwood was still in the planning stages. He retired from the board after the May 2021 meeting.

“We thank Homer for his 20 years of service to Cedarwood Assisted Living as a board member and board chairman,” said JCH&L CEO and Cedarwood President Burke Kline, DHA, CHFP, FACHE. A plaque was presented to Ward in recognition of his years of service.

Cedarwood assisted living is a private not-for-profit organization, and is jointly owned by Bryan Health of Lincoln and Jefferson Community Health & Life. It is operated by the Cedarwood assisted living board of directors, which includes an equal number of members from Bryan Health and JCH&L. Ward has served as a JCH&L representative on the board. Kline serves as president of the corporation.

Assisted living is a specially licensed area of senior housing, which is designed to fill a niche for those who can’t be in their own homes any longer, but do not yet need nursing home care. Cedarwood is Fairbury’s first and only licensed assisted living facility. The $4.3 million facility was completed in December 2003 and opened for tenants in early January 2004.

In Nebraska, an assisted living is licensed to provide residential and support services and is approved as a Medicaid provider for those eligible for Medicaid Waiver. Assisted living is designed to provide supervision or assistance with activities of daily living and monitoring of resident activities to help to ensure health, safety and well-being.

“Assisted living can help promote independence and dignity when independent living is no longer possible or safe, but the 24-hour medical care a nursing home would provide is not needed,” said Deb Sutton RN, administrator of Cedarwood assisted living.

Cedarwood provides its tenants three nutritious meals a day, assistance with a  weekly whirlpool bath if desired, weekly housekeeping service and flat linen laundry service, free use of laundry facilities for personal laundry or assistance with laundry for a nominal extra charge, social and exercise activities, 24-hour staff to assist with medication and personal care, use of common areas, scheduled van transportation, and an emergency call system.

The mission statement of Cedarwood is “to provide the highest quality of hospitality, services, activities, security, companionship and freedom to tenants in a caring and loving environment they are proud to call home.”

Each apartment features a kitchenette including personal refrigerator, microwave, cabinets, sink and dining area; bathroom equipped with walk-in, sit-down shower; thermostat-controlled air conditioning and heating; personal emergency alert system; fire detectors and sprinkler system; pre-wired cable and telephone outlets (cable is included with unit rental, telephone service is individual through the telephone company); abundant closet space; and a porch light, door bell and display shelf.

Three sizes of units are available. The studio unit is a one-room apartment with bathroom. The one-bed unit has a living area and a separate bedroom with bathroom and the one-bedroom deluxe also offers a living area and separate bedroom with bathroom, with additional square footage.

Eight units were added to Cedarwood on the west end of the building in 2013, bringing Cedarwood to a total of 50 units.

Besides serving as chairman of the Cedarwood board for 20 years, Ward has also served many other roles at JCH&L, including health center president and board member, foundation president and board member, and capital campaign chairman.

Presenting the award to Homer (center) are Dr. Burke Kline, JCH&L CEO, left, and Chance Klasek, JCH&L CFO, right.

JCH&L Burkley Fitness Center Open to Full Capacity

As of June 7, JCH&L Burkley Fitness Center is open to full capacity, after operating with distancing, reduced class sizes, and other COVID precautions since late last year.

The fitness center is open 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Zumba Class will begin again on Monday, July 5. Zumba will be offered on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.

Fitness Center participants must still pass a screening when entering, including temperature and questions about any COVID symptoms or exposure to COVID. Masking is optional for fitness center participants. Fitness Center participants MUST mask and have a screened sticker if leaving from the fitness center to other parts of Jefferson Community Health & Life.

Participants are still asked to wipe down equipment after use, and are encouraged to use hand sanitizer before and after using equipment.

Staff members continue to clean machines regularly.

“Throughout the pandemic we have been working hard to keep our members and staff safe,” said Craig Bontrager, fitness center director. “We are happy that our county is in the green risk dial and that we are able to loosen restrictions for our participants.”

Jefferson Community Health & Life will continue to monitor the county numbers and risk dial.

Cognition and Swallowing Among the Common Challenges Persisting for Many Americans After COVID-19

Speech-Language Pathologists Can Help Patients Regain Health and Quality of Life, Jefferson Community Health and Life Expert Stresses During Better Hearing & Speech Month

With an estimated 10 to 30% of COVID-19 survivors experiencing “long-haul” symptoms including brain fog and swallowing difficulties, JCHL speech-language pathologist Amanda Carlson is encouraging the public to seek care from qualified experts who can help them regain their functioning and quality of life. Carlson is sharing this message in recognition of May being national Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM).

“The pandemic has posed so many challenges to us all as a society, but one of the persisting and most vexing ones right now is the daunting set of difficulties many people are having for months after contracting COVID-19,” said Carlson. “From brain fog, to difficulty eating and drinking, to speech and language problems, these can affect return to work, the ability to take care of one’s family, and overall recovery. Many people don’t know about the services of speech-language pathologists—professionals trained in these areas who can make a huge difference for these people. This is an important time for us to spread the word: Help is available.”

How They Help

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can help people with, or recovering from, COVID-19 who are having short- and longer-term difficulties in the following areas:

  • Cognition

Many COVID-19 “long-haulers” are reporting persistent brain fog as a debilitating symptom after their bout with the virus. This can prevent a return to work and impact their ability to tend to family responsibilities. SLPs can work with individuals to improve their memory, attention, organization and planning, problem solving, learning, and social communication—such as re-learning conversational rules or understanding the intent behind a message or behind nonverbal cues. The focus is on the person’s specific challenges as well as regaining the skills that are most important to their daily life and priorities.

  • Swallowing

People diagnosed with COVID-19 may experience swallowing problems that can put them at risk for choking or aspirating, which is when food goes into the lungs instead of the stomach. This may be the result of time spent on a ventilator, or it may be another side effect of the virus. SLPs use different types of tests to determine what happens when a person swallows and how the related muscles are working—helping a patient’s medical team, including the SLP, decide on the best course of action with the patient and their family. SLPs may recommend modified textures of food and drink for patients; therapy exercises to strengthen the tongue, lips, and muscles in the mouth and throat; and strategies to make eating and drinking safer, such as modifying the pace of chewing/eating, size of food, and more.

  • Communication

People diagnosed with COVID-19 are also experiencing speech and language difficulties. Some, such as those who spent a significant amount of time on a ventilator or experienced low oxygen to the brain, may have muscle weakness or reduced coordination in the muscles of the face, lips, tongue, and throat—making it difficult to talk. Others, particularly those who experienced a COVID-related stroke, may experience a language disorder called aphasia—which makes it hard for someone to understand, speak, read, or write. SLPs work with patients through targeted therapy to improve their communication and understanding.

People who have severe speech and/or language difficulties may need to find other ways to answer questions or tell people what they want, such as through gesturing with their hands, pointing to letters or pictures on a paper or board, or using a computer. These are all forms of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). SLPs help find the appropriate AAC method to meet an individual’s needs.

Where to Find Care

Jefferson Community Health & Life Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Services speech therapist works in settings that include the hospital, long-term care facility, and patients’ homes. If you or a loved one are experiencing communication challenges, Carlson recommends letting your doctor know.

JCH&L Women’s Health Day Scheduled for June 23

Wellness Experience Offers Women a Convenient Way to Take Control of Their Health

In just about three hours women from Jefferson County and beyond can complete their annual health checks and receive a well-deserved indulgence at the same time. Women’s Health Day is a complete wellness experience designed to make women’s health easy. Jefferson Community Health & Life is now scheduling for the experience on Wednesday, June 23.

The program is available at the Jefferson Community Health & Life Health Center and Fairbury Clinic on select days every month, and includes:

* Personalized guidance from an on-site Women’s Health Day navigator

* Important health screenings, including fasting lab tests, a screening mammogram and a routine annual exam to assess overall and gynecological health (lab test and mammogram results will be available before participants leave for the day, while Pap test results will be provided later by mail)

* Complimentary breakfast and a relaxing indulgence—such as an express manicure or hand massage, for example. Offerings may vary.

* Reserved parking

“It’s so important for women to make time for their own health, but we know life sometimes gets in the way,” said Erin Starr, Chief Nursing Officer. “That’s why we created Women’s Health Day—to provide a convenient way for women to get their essential health screenings all at once, while also taking time to unwind.”

All major insurance plans are accepted for screening and exams (coverage is subject to individual policy terms). JCH&L Fairbury Clinic accepts new patients.

Appointments for the Women’s Health Day experience start as early as 6:30 a.m. To schedule, call 402.729.6841.