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Jena Eads and her family

Jena Eads and family

Ag is a diverse industry usually located in remote parts of the country. The risks and occupational exposures associated with farming and ranching are often not familiar to healthcare workers serving rural communities. Typically, nurses are the frontline of rural community healthcare. 

Last year, Jena Eads, BSN, RN, RNC-OB at Wright Memorial Hospital, received a scholarship from FCS Financial to complete the AgriSafe Nurse Scholar program. After researching the program, Eads realized it was a great opportunity for her to combine two things she is passionate about: nursing and agriculture.  

“I wanted to be able to share that passion with others,” Eads said. “Working in a rural community hospital ER, the AgriSafe Nurse Scholar program was directly related to my daily practices and has provided me with the knowledge and information to educate my co-workers, in addition to advocating for the patients I care for.”

Between family and work, finding time to complete the program is always a concern. Eads lives on a farm between Trenton and Jamesport in north central Missouri. She and husband, Brandon, have been married for 17 years and have two children, Hailey, 16, and Bo, 13. They farm around 2,000 acres of row crops and have 500 cow/calf pairs. Plus, her daughter shows cattle across the Midwest and their son plays travel baseball. On top of that, Eads is enrolled at the University of Missouri working on her Master of Science in Nursing, Leadership in Nursing and Health Care Systems. Her busy lifestyle did not deter her from completing the program consisting of 20 hours of virtual, on-demand learning using lectures, interactive question and answer sessions and group discussions. Then the pandemic in 2020 presented additional trials for Eads.

“Of course, life gets busy but 2020 proved to be even more challenging,” Eads commented.  “I work in the Emergency Department, so I was a frontline worker during COVID.  Despite working full-time, graduate school and two very busy children, the program was easy to navigate and complete at my own pace. 

“You have time! Honestly, the information and education provided during the program is so interesting that I couldn’t wait until I could complete the next session,” she added.

Agriculture consistently ranks in the top 10 dangerous industries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries; and farming is one of the few industries in which family members (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries.

“Rural healthcare is unique.  Rural healthcare providers are exposed to situations that many other providers may not experience or understand.” Eads said. “For example, chemical/pesticide usage, grain dust exposure, livestock operations, children driving tractors, and pregnant women handling medications, not to mention several other risks.  Resources and access to services can be limited.  Understanding the preventive opportunities and being able to share this information with my family, co-workers, and patients has been extremely beneficial and rewarding.”

In fact, Eads is using her experience to complete her thesis for her master’s in nursing. “After completing the AgriSafe Nurse Scholar Program I decided this was the perfect opportunity for me to share my passion and the information I learned,” Eads said.  “I have been collecting evidence-based research and developing material for preventive injury in agricultural workers.”

The areas of focus she found required more research and development are: systems to report agricultural injuries, universal descriptions of various agricultural injuries (i.e., injury, near-fatal, fatal), identification/development/deployment of various preventive programs, and how we can assess the effectiveness of the preventive program (i.e., an educational assessment tool for pre-and post-presentation).  

“Of course, this is a work in progress, and I have high hopes to continue working on my initiatives,” Eads explained.

Working for 15 years at Wright Memorial Hospital, it is evident that Eads is passionate about nursing, well-being and learning. As an AgriSafe Nurse Scholar she encourages others to consider the program to grow their understanding, awareness and expertise.

“I would definitely recommend this program to other nurses.  As healthcare professionals we are looked at as trusted, informative individuals,” she said. “The AgriSafe Nurse Scholar program expanded my knowledge and encouraged me to care for my patients at a higher level.”

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