Nurse practitioner draws fans, accolades

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Gretchen Moen of Eagan Child and Family Clinic is one of 13 Outstanding Nurses Award winners for 2013. (Photo by John Gessner)

Moen of Eagan Child and Family Clinic honored

Grateful families are responsible for landing Gretchen Moen on a prestigious list of nurses.

Moen, founder and majority owner of the Eagan Child and Family Clinic in Burnsville, is one of 13 winners of the 2013 Outstanding Nurses Awards given by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. More than 270 nurses were nominated.

Eagan resident JoAnn Geiser, the nurse at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights, was also honored.

Moen’s nominators include Heather Tidd of Lakeville, who credits Moen with ordering the MRI that revealed potentially paralyzing cysts in one of her son’s spinal cord, and Carolyn Krebs of Eagan, who likens Moen and her clinic to the small-town family doctor care some people still remember.

“This clinic is not big and isn’t fancy, but the care we get is top notch,” Krebs wrote in an email. “We love that we have found a clinic that is truly patient-centered and believes in education and collaboration.”

Moen is a product of that small-town tradition. Her father was a family doctor in Nashwauk, Minn.

“I kind of grew up with that ‘do everything for your patients no matter what time of day it was’ (mentality), because it was in our house,” the Eagan resident said.

These days, the veteran pediatric nurse practitioner doesn’t even take a salary from the clinic, aside from a small fee for the work involved with registering it as a nonprofit. The switch was made in April.

Moen is a pioneer, and her clinic an outlier.

In 2002 she and another nurse practitioner opened Mendota Health in Eagan, the first nurse practitioner-owned and -operated clinic in the Upper Midwest, according to Moen.

The nurse practitioner care model is a half century old, common on either coast, with its roots in well-child care provided by nurses working with pediatricians in underserved areas, according to Moen.

She embraced the model after nearly a decade with a for-profit pediatric clinic.

“Really what I was seeing there, from my own personal view, is that I didn’t feel like people were putting patients first,” Moen said. “I felt patients were sort of incidental to the care that was being given. I just felt like there was a better way to do it.”

Today, Eagan Child and Family Clinic, which Moen launched in 2005 as Eagan Child and Family Care, is one of four NP-owned and -operated clinics in Minnesota, she said.

In October 2011 the clinic moved from Eagan to the Cliffview Plaza strip mall in Burnsville (2530 Horizon Drive, near Highway 13 and Cliff Road) for a better deal on rent and roomier quarters.

It’s the only “nonprofit, community-style clinic” south of the river, Moen said, and 51 percent of its patients are uninsured or on medical assistance.

Its flat-rate services are “really cheap” — discounted by 60-70 percent compared with most clinics, Moen said — and “our labs are pennies on the dollar.”

She’s one of three full-time nurse practitioners and one part-time NP who handle 25 to 30 patient visits a day. The clinic has a dozen staffers and five or six on-site volunteers each day. It has prescriptive and collaborative agreements with the pediatricians of Children’s Hospitals and with Dr. Sofia Ali, a family practitioner who practices part time at the clinic.

Moen has been the primary care provider for Tidd’s four children for a decade. Two have special medical needs, and two are adopted and have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

“Gretchen has been by our side constantly,” answering off-hour calls and case-managing her children’s unique medical requirements, Tidd wrote.

When specialists were at a loss to explain a son’s loss of feeling in his legs and failing bowel and bladder control, “Gretchen knew us and our son and could tell that something was wrong,” Tidd wrote, adding that the spinal cord cysts could have rendered the boy paraplegic.

Krebs started going to Eagan Child and Family Clinic in 2008 when her second child was born.

“Gretchen is truly available for patients,” she wrote. “I can reach her or another clinic provider around the clock via the nurse line, email or even texting. Best of all, it is not a nurse who is just manning a phone — it is your provider and she knows your health history and can recommend care without always needing to go in to the clinic.”

The clinic’s switch to nonprofit status opens doors to collaboration with agencies whose bylaws limit them to working with other nonprofits, Moen said.

The clinic already offers outreach programs, such as a fall health fair and thrice-yearly Somali women’s groups.

“It’s a big portion of our clientele,” Moen said of the local Somali community.

Future initiatives include designation as a Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome diagnostic site.

“Because we’re all about serving the underserved and helping everybody get the best access to care, we can make alliances with other agencies to help provide the services we ourselves can’t provide,” Moen said.

And still, no salary for the founder, besides her “seriously nominal” administrative fee.

“There’s a lot in it for me,” Moen said. “I get to see my patients get better. I get to see my population served. And I get to have a lot of fun doing it. I love what I do. And I get to work with a lot of great people who love it, too.”

Eagan Child and Family Clinic is holding an open house 1-4 p.m. Sept. 7. Information is at www.eaganchildandfamily.com.

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