By Traci Chapman
For Ashly Armstrong, nursing is all about family – it’s what inspired her in her career choice and the basis for her care of every patient, every day.
That inspiration began before Armstrong even entered high school, as she watched the struggle of a family member, and wanted to be part of the solution that could ease her suffering.
“My sister Amber is a special epileptic – we’ve almost lost her several times,” Armstrong said. “She was 17 and I was 14 during one of those three-month hospital visits and surviving another medically-induced coma, and I realized I wanted to do something in the medical field.”
It was a desire she never wavered from – now 33, Armstrong graduated in 2006 from Southern Nazarene University with a multidisciplinary degree in nursing and business; in 2007, she earned her associate nursing degree from Oklahoma State University-OKC’s distance learning program at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
“I started right off in what I wanted to do – I immediately became a nurse extern with Integris Canadian Valley Hospital in the women’s center,” Armstrong said.
While her growing family led Armstrong to first move to a less time intensive position and then a one-year sabbatical, her professional road held a few curves, leading Armstrong on more than one occasion back to her past. It was something that allowed her to develop a career that’s encompassed everything she loves and cherishes, Armstrong said.
That past came full circle recently, when Armstrong returned to Canadian Valley’s women’s center, working with growing families and helping both parents and babies lead a healthier life.
“Labor, delivery and newborn care is just amazing – I love seeing the beauty and miracles our Creator made,” Armstrong said. “Education with these folks also begins the moment they walk through the door, so I’m grateful for when I am able to empower them in appropriately caring for their body, as well as their newborn.”
While her work at Canadian Valley is an integral part of her life, it is far from her only professional priority, Armstrong said. In fact, the other aspect of the Mustang nurse’s service allowed her to travel even further back into her own past – and combines the best of work and family, she said.
That past was at Mustang Public Schools – her own alma mater, and the district her sons will be a part of for years to come.
“It was just a perfect position for me – I could do what I loved, work close to home and even be near my boys when they started school,” Armstrong said.
Now in her fifth year at MPS, Armstrong works as a Resource RN, overseeing four of the district’s seven elementary schools. In that position, she interacts with about 2,300 students and 250 employees. One of those schools was the district’s oldest – and her own – primary school, Mustang Elementary.
“There’s that link, those memories, and I get to work at two of our sons’ schools a lot of time through my job, which is a great perk,” she said. “I get to be where I want to be, while I do what I know I’m meant to do.”
The MPS position brings with it not just the best of nursing, but a job that offers something new every single day, Armstrong said. It allows her to work with staff and teachers, students, parents and administrators, people who are as different as the medical conditions she is trained to deal with.
“I train and assist our part time nurse assistants and secretaries at each of the sites to appropriately manage whatever comes in through our heath office – whether it’s a student with Type 1 diabetes, an upset stomach, an asthma attack or feeding tube problem, someone having an anaphylactic reaction, a recess or PE injury or an issue with a colostomy,” she said.
That training and the variety of what Armstrong and her fellow nurses do each week are illustrated by a series of upcoming events and activities. They include educational sessions, like a handwashing/germ lesson for Mustang Elementary’s all-day pre-kindergarten class, a partnership with Vizavance to perform student vision screenings, nurse training and a class led by MPS RNs, teaching Mustang Education Center staff CPR as part of professional development day.
“We’re also going to take part in training at OU Children’s Hospital,” Armstrong said. “They’re offering a free pediatric health for schools’ conference, and we’ve invited all RNs; student services director Karen Wilson, several nurse assistants; counselors; speech pathologists; special education teachers; principals; occupational therapists; and physical therapists.”
Armstrong is also active in improving the health of those she works with and the students she treats through education and administration – preparing individual healthcare plans for students and partnering with teachers in the classroom to spread health awareness and practices that range from hygiene and hand washing to germs, lice and other health subjects that can help students – even the youngest of them – lead healthier lives, she said.
“I enjoy being the students’ advocate and assuring the parents we’re doing our best to prepare our staff so they’re confident in and proactive with their child’s condition, and I like being in the classroom and knowing I’m teaching students things that can be so important in their lives long after they’ve moved to the next grade or even the next school,” she said.
With her husband, Brett, Armstrong owns two companies, A Squared Adventures and CrossFit RWOL. While ASA has more of an entertainment focus, RWOL is deeper than a first glance might suggest, she said.
“We try to help people ‘Restore Wholeness Of Life’ in several aspects, often starting with building relationships with them through physical workout and, therefore, health improvement,” Armstrong said.
“Watching people treat my sister when I was younger, others made such an impact in a good way and others in a negative way,” she said. “I wanted to be a consistent, positive, compassionate person for someone and their family someday.”
Those who know and work with Armstrong say she has done just that.