Developing a passion

Robert Galbreath photo Family Nurse Practitioner Juli Forrester, FNP, APRN, joins the Sublette County Health team as a pediatrics provider.

FNP Juli Forrester brings pediatric expertise to Sublette County

MARBLETON –Family Nurse Practitioner Juli Forrester’s path to pediatrics did not follow a straight line.

Forrester began her health-care career as an RN at the Marbleton-Big Piney Clinic. Working in a rural setting required nurses to juggle a variety of roles, from taking a patient’s stats during routine office visits to assisting with trauma patients.

“You saw a lot of everything here,” Forrester said.

A hunger for learning and supportive colleagues in Sublette County encouraged Forrester to return to school to pursue a master’s degree and become a family nurse practitioner (FNP).

“We did a lot of primary care and emergency care (at the Marbleton Clinic), so I didn’t have a ton of exposure to pediatrics when I was working as an RN,” said Forrester. “When I went back to school to get my FNP, I did a rotation in pediatrics. It was where I felt I could learn the most.”

FNPs care for “people across their lifespan, from birth to death,” Forrester said. Upon graduation, however, Forrester accepted a job working with a pediatrician in Green River.

Dr. Connie Fauntleroy proved to be a “wonderful mentor,” knowledgeable and passionate about her young patients, and made a “huge impact” on Forrester’s future.

Forrester developed a natural rapport with young people and realized she found her calling in pediatrics.

“I really feel like I had an ability to communicate with the kids and their parents and really understand their needs,” she said. “Kids can’t always tell you what’s wrong with them. I was able to connect with the pediatric population. They’re my people. Pediatrics is just where my heart is – taking care of kids in a family setting.”

Forrester will return to Sublette County in October as a part-time provider offering pediatric care for the Sublette County Hospital District (SCHD), filling in a crucial gap in local health care with her expertise.

“My niche is pediatrics, so I’m thankful for the opportunity to bring some of that care here,” she said. “I lived in Sublette County and had kiddos, and there weren’t any specialists in pediatrics. This will hopefully be a good benefit for people living here to feel comfortable seeking care for their kids locally.”

The route less traveled

Initially, Forrester expressed interest in studying athletic training or physical therapy. The Green River High School graduate married a former Big Piney High School Puncher and moved to Sublette County.

Forrester landed a job at the Marbleton-Big Piney Clinic, working in medical records at the front desk.

“I remember one day, an emergency walked through the doors,” she said. “One of the nurses came out and handled that situation so well. That was when I knew I wanted to go into the nursing field.”

Inspired by Amy Wiig, a nurse at the clinic, and physician Dr. David Burnett, now medical director at the SCHD, Forrester entered nursing school and graduated as a registered nurse.

An RN position opened at the Marbleton-Big Piney Clinic, and Forrester leapt at the opportunity to return to a familiar setting. She quickly settled into her new career.

“I loved being a nurse – just that personal touch and the flexibility that comes with the job, because you can do so many different things,” she said.

A desire to further her education led Forrester to enroll at Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky to pursue a master’s degree in nursing and a career as an FNP.

The university was the “first midwife college in the country” and “focused on underserved and rural communities,” Forrester said.

“That was a big draw for me.”

Graduate school combined “didactic learning” in the classroom with clinical hours in a variety of settings, from pediatrics to women’s health and psychiatric care, explained Forrester.

Training to become an FNP “builds upon your working knowledge as an RN” to develop the skills to make clinical decisions as a provider, Forrester added. Her wealth of experiences as an RN at the Marbleton-Big Piney Clinic, where “anything could come through the door,” gave Forrester a leg up at graduate school.

“Working in Sublette County was a huge asset to my knowledge base,” she said.

Following graduation as an FNP, Forrester practiced with Dr. Fauntleroy, a pediatrician in Green River with years of experience in the field.

“I was intimidated at first because Dr. Fauntleroy was so smart,” said Forrester. “I wanted to learn and she wanted to teach, so we developed a beautiful relationship. She taught me so many little things, little subtleties that you look for in kids, that I didn’t necessarily learn in my didactic course work that I never would have been attuned to.”

Dr. Fauntleroy also possessed the humility to admit when she was stumped by something new or unique, and taught Forrester to collaborate with others to find the answer.

Therapeutic communication

A successful practice is based on maintaining communication between the provider and patient. Forrester relies on a concept called “therapeutic communication” or “shared decision making” with her young patients and their families.

Caring for children can be a challenge, especially when they are in pain or ill.

“Kids are not going to tell you everything,” said Forrester. “You really have to be good at getting that information from them to puzzle-piece things together.”

Part of therapeutic communication is the ability to explain complicated medical concepts at a level the child and their caregivers can understand, Forrester said.

Therapeutic communication also means listening to questions and giving patients and their family the information necessary to make informed decisions about their own health care, she said.

Developing rapport with each child involves meeting them on their unique individual terms. Take drawing blood, for example.

“Most kids hate getting their blood drawn,” said Forrester. “You have to learn each child’s style, because some kids are very black and white and want to know everything that is happening and others just say, ‘Okay, it’s just going to be a little prick.’”

Forrester also emphasizes preventative care in her practice and the importance of catching potential medical conditions when children are young to try and avert serious illness or complications in the future.

“You intervene early so you’re not seeing somebody down the road when they are maybe 30 (with certain medical conditions) and it was something you could have addressed when they were much younger and could have made a difference,” she said.

In addition to Wiig, Dr. Fontleroy and Dr. Burnett, Forrester gave a shoutout to her husband for his support over the years.

“He’s always been the one to let me chase my dreams, even if sometimes they might seem far-fetched.”

When not at work, Forrester enjoys spending time with family and outdoor activities like hunting, fishing and running.

To make a pediatric appointment with Juli Forrester, FNP, APRN, contact either the Marbleton-Big Piney Clinic at 307-276-3306 or the Pinedale Clinic at 307-367-4133.

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