Nursing Master's Grad Joins Effort to Expand Care in Small Town NC

Michelle Trexler
Friday, January 10, 2020

While many 49er nursing graduates start their careers in the urban sprawl of Charlotte, the School of Nursing is now also leading the way in increasing the number of advanced practice nurses in more rural areas.

Recent master’s graduate Michelle Trexler is a part of the group of recent graduates working to meet the needs of these communities. She’s now completing her training at FirstHealth Moore Regional Campus in Pinehurst, NC, and will transition into a long-awaited opportunity as Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) at the providers’ Richmond Campus in Rockingham, NC in January. Trexler was offered a job after working there for two semesters of clinical time while studying for her master's and expressing her hopes of joining the medical team.

“I have always felt compelled to continue learning and so that I could grow in this profession to better serve people,” said Trexler. “I wanted to pursue my master’s and become a nurse practitioner so that I can hopefully provide an impact in my community.”

Rockingham, NC is a relatively rural community located near the central southern border of the state. According to Dena Evans, director of the School of Nursing, rural areas tend to have a shortage of primary care providers, and the people living in these areas suffer from more chronic illnesses

“If individuals living in rural areas had more access to primary care providers, they would potentially seek medical care earlier for acute conditions and would be able to treat chronic conditions earlier, thereby reducing many of the long term health consequences that arise when treatment is delayed,” said Dr. Evans.

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, by 2032, there is predicted to be a large gap in the number of physicians across the country, creating a void in primary care, especially in rural areas across the state of North Carolina. Nurses like Michelle Trexler help address these needs by acting as primary care providers in the place of physicians. 

Advanced practice nurses possess a wide range of skills, and are qualified to conduct exams, perform tests, prescribe medications, and develop treatment plans for acute and chronic diseases. 

Dr. Van Slaughter, Jr. is Medical Director at the Richmond campus and Michelle’s previous supervisor. He is one of many who understands the value and skills highly trained nurses bring to the table.

“[These] practitioners are important to the current, and will be vital to the future of all healthcare,” said Slaughter. “They are uniquely valuable to rural communities because of the broad spectrum of patients they see during training. With a few well-trained nurse practitioners, a physician can help more patients more efficiently, across a larger geographic area by being available to discuss more difficult cases. With the subspecialization of Acute Care Nurse Practitioners, rural hospitals could be covered at lower costs, possibly allowing the hospitals to remain open to continue serving the community.

Dr. Slaughter remains impressed with Trexler’s abilities as a nurse.

“She has been a part of First Health for almost 10 years,” said Slaughter. “She knows the system inside and out. She gets along well with everyone on the treatment team and remains calm under pressure. Her experience gives her a unique perspective on total patient care.”

Michelle plans to stay in Rockingham with her husband and raise their two children. She also intends on continuing her practice in Richmond county in order to provide individuals with more access to primary care.

“I plan to remain a constant presence in my community and hopefully aid in improving outcomes.”