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Longtime JALC Nursing Instructor, Patchett, Preparing for Third Mission Trip to Africa

Longtime JALC nursing instructor Barb Patchett (far left) is shown here tending to a simulated male patient with her co-workers, Heather Hampson, and Donna Farris. (Logan Media Services photo)

Longtime JALC nursing instructor Barb Patchett (far left) is shown here tending to a simulated male patient with her co-workers, Heather Hampson, and Donna Farris. (Logan Media Services photo)

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – It’s safe to say that in her 30 years as a nursing instructor at John A. Logan College, Barb Patchett has carved out quite an impressive niche for herself and has won the admiration of both her co-workers and students.

The superlatives roll off the tongue when visiting with Marilyn Falaster, Director of Nursing; Donna Farris, nursing instructor; and Heather Hampson, daughter and nursing instructor.

“Barb is such a package of dynamite,” Falaster said. “She has always wanted to give students an education that will be of value in years to come. She keeps current in the profession and challenges students, faculty and me to keep up with her.”

Falaster said Patchett receives “numerous compliments” from current and past students.

“Many remark that she is a role model in the profession of nursing. She has been in the forefront of ‘Sim Man,’ which is (a male model constructed) to simulate learning. She has developed complex simulated education scenarios from scratch and helped students develop critical thinking skills during simulated emergencies in a controlled lab setting.”

Celebrating 30 years as JALC nursing instructor, Barb Patchett reviews the condition and treatment method for a hypothetical patient with students. (Logan Media Services photo)

Celebrating 30 years as JALC nursing instructor, Barb Patchett reviews the condition and treatment method for a hypothetical patient with students. (Logan Media Services photo)

Falaster said Patchett has been willing to accept and excel with the technical challenges of current college education, developing online courses that include video streaming and voiceover.

“She has worked hard to help stimulate and challenge the students to learn the most they can in order to become an excellent Registered Nurse.”

Farris said she first met Patchett at a seminar at Rend Lake College when she was a nursing student at Shawnee Community College in 1980.

“I remember her, but she doesn’t remember me,” Farris joked. “She was the director of the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market (SICCM) nursing program and gave a welcoming speech to all the students from the five local colleges that are represented through SICCM. She also gave a few cardiac lectures to the Shawnee class. I remember being in awe of the nursing knowledge and experience she had even then. I hoped to be like her one day.”

Farris said her next interaction with Patchett was when the latter was working on her doctorate degree and needed nurses to fill out a survey as part of her dissertation.

“I was the charge nurse for the surgical unit at Marion Memorial Hospital and she asked my permission to do the survey at the hospital. Once again, I admired her drive and intellect. We didn’t meet again until I started working at Logan in August of 1994. At that time, she was the only ADN instructor left.”

Here, Barb poses for the camera with a 6-year-old boy from Salala, Liberia. Barb met him at an evangelical crusade. Barb and her contingent of healthcare providers not only provided quality medical treatment to hundreds of children, but also took the opportunity to build churches in the region and spread the gospel. (Photo provided)

Here, Barb poses for the camera with a 6-year-old boy from Salala, Liberia. Barb met him at an evangelical crusade. Barb and her contingent of healthcare providers not only provided quality medical treatment to hundreds of children, but also took the opportunity to build churches in the region and spread the gospel. (Photo provided)

Farris said Patchett had the task that year of mentoring three new faculty members with 90 students enrolled in the nursing program.

“Despite that burden, all I ever saw from her was her graciousness.”

Farris said she considers Patchett and her daughter, Heather, “members of my family” and shares their desire to continue learning and helping others.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have Barb’s stamina,” Farris said. “She helps everyone (students, strangers, co-workers, family, friends). Not only does she work for free, but a lot of the time, she pays for any cost out of her own pocket. Many times, I have asked why and how she is able to do all she does. She tells me she is doing God’s work and building treasures in Heaven.”

Farris said Patchett’s mind never stops working.

“In my opinion, she is the heart of this nursing program. She is very creative and is constantly thinking of new ways to improve the program, even though Logan has one of the best ADN programs in the state. And, JALC is only one small portion of everything on her plate. Barb has the ability to inspire others into action. When others say, ‘It can’t be done,’ ‘It’s too much,’ or ‘I’m not going to do it,’ she still somehow gets the job done. I don’t think there is anything Barb can’t do. What do I like about her the most? Her passion and selflessness. I still hope to be like her one day.”

Hampson said, without a doubt, she got into the nursing field because of her mother.

“Ever since I was young, I can remember my mother telling everyone we met – waitresses, cashiers, mechanics, you name it – about how great nursing was and that they should go to nursing school. If a conversation was started, somehow it would turn into my mother telling the person that nursing could change their life for the better. As it turns out, she was right.”

Hampson said she wasn’t sure, at first, if she would follow in her mother’s footsteps, but ultimately, she was unable to resist the temptation.

“And I’m very thankful I did,” she said. “My mother is a true researcher at heart. If she is ever presented with a question or a problem that she doesn’t know the answer to, or if something sparks her interest, she will research and read and discuss until she is satisfied with the knowledge she gains. This is how she helped my son, Thomas, who at 18 months, was diagnosed with autism.

“He could not speak at all and did not have eye contact. I truly wondered if I would ever hear him say ‘Mommy’ or ‘I love you.’ Like most parents with an autistic child, we did not know where to start. But my mother did. She spent days and weeks researching all the different avenues and therapies that would benefit Thomas.”

Through her mother’s research, Hampson said, Thomas was placed on several therapies, including a gluten-free, casein-free diet, with vitamins and mineral replacement, as well as hyperbaric, speech, occupational, developmental, physical, play and even a little Disney therapy.

“After getting Thomas on his way, my mother continued to research autism and the therapies,” Hampson said. “She has flown all over the United States to attend workshops and conferences with some of the top doctors and therapists in the world. And she has even helped at these conferences to teach other parents how to help their children. She has held autism classes here at John A. Logan College to help people in our own community.”

Since her son can’t consume food items with wheat or milk, Hampson said, her mother continues to help cook and create new recipes for him to enjoy.

“Thomas is an amazing success story,” she said. “He is now 7 years old and attends a regular first-grade class. Although he will always have hurdles to overcome, I could not ask for a better outcome. I get to hear him call me ‘Mommy’ every day and he is a great big brother. And that’s all thanks to his grandma and my mother, Dr. Patchett.”

Patchett is a native of St. Louis. She is a 1965 graduate of Normandy High School. Three years later, she obtained her certification as a registered nurse from the Jewish Diploma School of Nursing, also in St. Louis, and worked in the intensive care unit for the next four years at various hospitals in the city.

In 1972, she moved to Marion and was employed at the Choate Center for Mental Health in Anna. She held that position for about four more years before her hire as a nurse educator at Rend Lake College, through the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market, a consortium that started nursing programs in five colleges in the region.

Patchett, 64, was hired as a full-time instructor at Logan in 1982. She estimates that she has taught approximately 2,500 nursing students over the decades.

While her work as an instructor in nursing at Logan remains extremely important to her, Patchett said researching ways to improve her grandson’s life means even more.

“Thomas has pretty much consumed my life these last six years, but that’s OK,” she said. “Whatever I can do to help make life better for him. At first, he couldn’t do the most basic of things. Over these last couple of years, however, we have started to see the fruits of our labors. Thomas has a wonderful mind, an IQ that is much better than we thought. He is even taking an accelerated reading class this semester at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Herrin.”

Patchett said developing her grandson’s socialization skills often outweigh learned academic skills when battling autism.

As if she weren’t busy enough, Patchett still finds time to devote to her church – Community of Faith – in Marion. With the support of her church family, she has made two missions trips with a small delegation of other American healthcare professionals to Weala, Liberia, which is a country in Africa in an attempt to tend to the need of thousands of children and adults.

“Liberia is a war-torn, devastated nation with only 80 physicians for 3.5 million people and 50 percent of the population is malnourished,” Patchett said. “In March, I will be making my third trip there with our medical team. Last year, we treated over 2,000 people and performed over 200 surgeries. I am the Director of Clinical Nursing for the medical team.”

Patchett said she and fellow medical staffers are “met with open arms” when arriving in Weala.

“The people there couldn’t be any friendlier and it’s so rewarding to know we’re making an impact in their lives. And they live hard lives. It’s constantly hot, there is high humidity and there are terrible monsoons. There is no electricity, dirt roads and the residents live in mud huts for the most part. You just can’t comprehend it until you see it for yourself.”

Patchett said family members have questioned her sanity for putting herself in harm’s way so often.

“No doubt, there is some risk. This kind of mission is not for the faint of heart,” she said. “There are plenty of people who may think I’m crazy, but I see the good that we’re doing there and I just can’t stay away. Most nurses, I think, have a hard time not thinking about places like this in Africa, where our help is needed more than anywhere else in the world because it is a nurse’s instinct to provide comfort.”

Patchett said she simply can’t live long enough to do all the work that she would like to do as a healthcare provider.

For now, however, she is content to teach JALC students that nursing is more than understanding and treating the physical needs of a patient. She is content to research new treatment methods for her autistic grandson, Thomas, and she is content to spread the gospel through her missions work in Africa once a year.

“Taking care of people is what I do best and what I want to continue to do as long as I am healthy enough to do so.”

In addition to Heather, Patchett has four other children – Kelly, a librarian in Baltimore; Heather Dawn, a stay-at-home mom in Allentown, Pa.; Alex, who resides in Marion; and John, a computer engineer in Marion.