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2011 Health Care Champion Honoree: Leta Barnes

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Working as a pediatric nurse practitioner is a perfect fit for Leta Barnes.

“When I was growing up, I worked in day cares, at a children’s church (and in) nurseries,” she says. “I don’t know how to do anything else. I just like kids – I always have.”

Barnes earned her nursing diploma from St. John’s School of Nursing in 1985, and her bachelor’s in nursing from Southwest Baptist University in 1994. After she earned her master’s in nursing from Missouri State University, Barnes started work as a pediatric nurse practitioner for the Children’s Miracle Network Care Mobile, a pediatric office on wheels that provided services, such as immunizations, to patients in need throughout the Ozarks.

“We went to the schools, and we went to the outlying areas and just kind of set up clinics,” she says. “Everything that we did was free.”

For the past nine years, Barnes has worked as a family and pediatric nurse practitioner for Ozarks Community Hospital, providing primary care in north Springfield.

Through her practice, she sees about 30 patients a day, ranging from newborn to 21 years old – and sometimes a little older – and many of her patients are on Medicaid.

Barnes also is the medical provider for seven adolescent group homes in Springfield, and she makes weekly care visits to Boys and Girls Town. She also recently began collaborating with the foster care system to provide emergency medical care for children removed from abusive homes.

While there are some difficult aspects of her work, Barnes says working with children and seeing them get better keeps her going. She spent more than a decade as a pediatric nurse at St. John’s, where she directed the pediatric outpatient and oncology department, and through the years, she has built multigenerational connections.

For example, Barnes previously cared for a 3-year-old leukemia patient who was eventually cured, and now, that patient brings her own child to Barnes’ practice for care.

“I feel like I’m a little part of the family,” she says.

Barnes has given numerous lectures on pediatric health and illnesses, as well as sexual and physical abuse, and she spent five years with Child Advocacy Center, performing sexual assault forensic exams and testifying in court on behalf of abused children.

All of her work, she says, comes down to helping children.

“I have a calling to do what I do,” she says.

Click here for full coverage of the 2011 Salute to Health Care.
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