During his seven years as a nurse at Via Christi in Manhattan in a wound care clinic, Zac Nehring saw painful reminders daily of disparities in the health care system.
“People have wounds that can be acute, or they can be incredibly chronic. The most upsetting part is when people don’t have the resources to care for them properly, and they are often floating from doctor to doctor or nurse to nurse, and they still end up in the same position they are in with the pain,” Zac said. “You see also that divide in people that have two types of insurance, and people who have no insurance at all.”
Zac started as a Public Health Nurse on Feb. 24, and he had spent the previous six months with Spectrum Home Health Services, mostly serving clients in the Kansas City area. He was attracted to Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health to be able to work with clients on preventive care and as part of a local public health system that works to address health equity and the social determinants of health for all residents.
“I don’t think United States has done a very good job of prevention,” Zac said. “Now I think we are getting more serious about it because it’s costly to get sick.”
He can point to two major influences that helped contributed to this perspective. His grandmother, Lorena Carlson, is part of a group that created a community health ministry in Wamego, Kansas, that is now a sizable operation with a dental clinic, food support and a nurse practitioner among other services for those in the community.
“It has grown from something she asked me to make a little sign for once into something that takes a lot of government oversight,” he said. “She’s my hero, and she practices her faith, doesn’t judge people.”
He also has spent time in the healthcare system overseas. Zac earned a bachelor’s in nursing from Washburn University and a bachelor’s in nursing with a European Union certification he obtained during time in Finland and other parts of Europe.
“Zac came to us with very high recommendations, and we are grateful that he joined the team, especially in being able to have him help with our COVID-19 response these past few weeks,” said Director of Clinic Services Linda Craig.
During his first couple of months as all staff have redeployed to help with the COVID-19 response, Zac has jumped into to various tasks, including leading fit testing and answering many questions from the public hotline.
He is also grateful to be working in his home community. He moved to Lawrence in 2019, but while working in the Kansas City area, he didn’t feel he was getting to know the community well. He lives a couple of blocks from the Community Health Facility.
“I really wanted to know what the community is about and who is in the community. As a nurse, I also wanted to be able to treat the community and be part of that community.” he said. “When I found this job, I thought ‘this is it.’”