With grant, FRCOG’s Cooperative Public Health Service hires second nurse

  • RYAN

Staff Writer
Published: 10/4/2021 3:32:21 PM

GREENFIELD — After a midlife career change that led her into the field of nursing, Public Health Nurse Meg Ryan found herself at a job she looks forward to each morning.

Ryan — who started work as the second public health nurse for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ (FRCOG) Cooperative Public Health Service last month, joining Lisa White — used to be a secretary to a variety of doctors and lawyers, and later a stay-at-home mom who ran a home daycare.

“I never figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Ryan said. “I think it’s a lifelong process.”

She did know, however, that she wanted something “very focused on people” and had “variety in the job.”

So, in her late 40s, the Northampton resident went back to school. She earned her associate’s degree from Greenfield Community College, and then a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Elms College in Chicopee.

“I love being a nurse,” she said simply.

Prior to entering public health, Ryan worked for a home care agency, and most recently, Highland Valley Elder Services in Northampton. She said she has a strong background in dementia.

“My entire nursing career of about 10 years has been in community-based nursing, and mostly with elders,” she said.

Ryan said she wasn’t necessarily looking for a new job when a friend shared with her the job listing at FRCOG. Still, it piqued her interest.

“When I got the bachelor’s degree, my thought was, ‘I think I’m a public health nurse at heart, and that I would like the opportunity at some point,’” she recalled.

Ryan said she enjoys being in a position where much of her work is “preventative.”

“So much health care is reactive,” she said. “This is an exciting time to be in public health after a year and a half of being almost exclusively reactive to COVID.”

While COVID-19 is still “very present” — Ryan noted contact tracing is still “a very big part of the job” — it’s time to return to the preventative work public health is known for, she said. Ryan pointed to the walk-in wellness clinics as an example.

“In doubling the size of the public health nursing staff, we should be able to provide non-COVID-related public health, which is very exciting,” she said.

Another aspect of her job, she added, is working with Nour Elkhattaby Strauch at LifePath on age-friendly and dementia-friendly initiatives. LifePath is the Greenfield-based elder care agency that serves Franklin County and the North Quabbin region.

Ryan explained that the initiative is about making sure people can “age comfortably and happily in place,” and that communities have resources and can make necessary changes “to value all members of the community.”

“The project is very near and dear to my heart,” she said.

Ryan’s position is funded by a public health excellence grant that was awarded this year to FRCOG’s Cooperative Public Health Service by the state Department of Public Health. The $285,000 per year grant, which also funds a new program manager position and software for inspections, is a three-year contract with three possible extensions, according to Phoebe Walker, director of community services at FRCOG.

“I feel really lucky,” Ryan said, “to be working with such a strong and great team who are incredibly talented and really care about the public health in the region.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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