Editors Note – Journalism 210 students wrote profiles of people who work in our community. The Horizon staff chose this profile, of Planned Parenthood employee Lisa Kelly, to publish in this edition of the paper.
by Taylor Nichols
Lisa Kelly, a nurse at Planned Parenthood, is anything but squeamish after working at the clinic for three years. She has seen everything there is to see in the reproductive world, and a day in the life of Kelly is rarely predictable.
“It’s the Forrest Gump box o’ chocolates,” she says, laughing. Her hair is pulled back into a loose ponytail and a stethoscope hangs around her neck, resting on her chest next to a white nametag.
The clinic is a place for accessible health care. This includes contraception, such as different forms of birth control and condoms, as well as treatment and testing for sexually transmitted infections, or STIs. The clinic also provides pregnancy testing.
“In all my life, never have I ever felt so proud to work somewhere, and at the end of the day, I feel accomplished, like I did a good job,” Kelly said. “I’m a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood and believe in their mission.”
The services offered by the clinic are not limited to women. Many procedures, such as vasectomies, and testing and treatment for STIs are offered for male patients as well. “We provide cost-effective, sliding-scale care to people who otherwise couldn’t get it,” Kelly said.
Kelly makes it clear that working at Planned Parenthood, while always rewarding, is not always easy. The doctors and nurses at the clinic help people in heartbreaking situations every day.
“We see people at their worst,” she said. Patients who are detoxing from heroin, inmates, schizophrenics, and rape victims are among those who are seen at the clinic.
Kelly enjoys working with these difficult patients. “Those types of people … need a little extra that sometimes other nurses aren’t willing to give,” she said, “and I can do it. I’m good at it.”
Kelly said her favorite part of the job is interacting with “all different walks of life.”
“I love the challenge,” she said. “Maybe it’s because I’m nosy or a voyeur, I don’t know.”
Protected by bulletproof glass and locked doors, the clinic is secure out of necessity. Kelly said she has experienced things like bomb threats and even an angry boyfriend who drove his car into the brick exterior of the building.
Kelly does a number of things at the clinic. Some days she works in the procedure area, where they perform vasectomies, remove precancerous cells from the cervix, and insert intrauterine devices, among other things.
Kelly prepares the rooms, turning on soothing music in each one. She turns on heating pads for recovering patients, takes vitals, and generally gets the patient ready for the doctor.
She also brings in the equipment necessary for each procedure. “We try to hide anything scary, like syringes,” she said, gesturing towards a cart with long curtains that cover where the supplies are stored.
Working three days a week while going to school, Kelly’s schedule is packed. She is currently attending Bellingham Technical College to become a registered nurse. She began working at the clinic as a licensed practical nurse.
Kelly’s tasks at work vary from day to day.
“Some days I assist nurse practitioners, so I’ll room patients, take their vitals, prep, weigh them, find out why they’re there, that kind of stuff,” Kelly said.
On other days, Kelly works in the main office as a triage nurse. Once a week she’s on the phone all day, taking calls from people who need to speak with a nurse at the clinic. In the triage area the nurses also call to inform people of abnormal lab reports, such as sexually transmitted infections or precancerous cells.
“I assess their situation,” Kelly said, “then decide what the next step is for them, whether they need to come into the clinic, make an appointment, go to the emergency room, or whatever.”
Kelly said her long-term goal is to become a behavioral health nurse and work at an inpatient home. She hopes to continue working with “people who are truly in need of advocates or a voice, or need someone to listen.”