When Mary Chenge was first assigned to Exalta Health as part of her clinicals at Grand Valley, she didn’t know what to expect.
But when she looked up Exalta Health online, she was encouraged. Right away she took note of five key words on the homepage: “Reflecting the spirit of Christ.”
“I liked that,” she says. “Being raised in a Christian family, I wanted to be part of a health system that integrated faith into the work it does and the lives of the people it serves. So Exalta Health was a good fit.”
Chenge is halfway through the nurse practitioner program at Grand Valley’s Kirkhof College of Nursing, a three-year program that results in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and is designed for nurses seeking a terminal degree in nursing practice. The DNP curriculum is intended to be consistent with the national agenda in the U.S. to transform American health care through interprofessional collaboration, health care policy advocacy, patient-centered care and more, all areas of emphasis that fit well with the Exalta Health mission.
She will graduate in April 2021 with a DNP and an Advanced Nursing Practice emphasis, and this will be her third degree, following a college degree in biology in her native Nigeria and then a degree in nursing from Calvin University.
She has worked for the past five years as a nurse at the Meijer Heart Center in Grand Rapids and continues to serve there, while taking a full-time load at GVSU and doing her clinicals at Exalta Health. While she admits the schedule can be overwhelming at times, she adds that Exalta Health has actually helped in that regard.
“Our prayer time here,” she says, “and our scripture readings. It’s been an important part of my work here. For example, recently we read Proverbs 3:5-6: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.’ It was very much what I needed, calmed me down and brought me peace.”
Mary is required to spend 180 hours at Exalta Health this semester and often puts in 15-20 hours a week at the organization. She holds down a whole host of duties and has assisted the Exalta Health medical staff and Exalta Health physician volunteers in countless valuable ways.
Staff physician Dr. Chris Shoemaker, who is supervising Chenge, says Exalta Health partnerships with colleges and universities are significant to the org and to the students. Indeed, in 2019 approximately 75 students came to Exalta Health as their clinical site, including from Grand Valley, Ferris, Calvin, Davenport, Cornerstone, Michigan State, University of Michigan, Grand Rapids Community College and Spring Arbor.
Of Chenge he says simply: “This is Mary’s first clinical rotation. She is seeing patients, taking histories, doing physicals and starting to place diagnoses and orders. She is a important part of the clinical team and is a pleasant, studious, interested learner. We’re grateful to have her.”
In addition to her studies and her work, Mary continues to also be a frequent visitor to Nigeria where she volunteers in a variety of health-related capacities, including with non-governmental organizations in the country. In fact, one reason she decided to pursue the advanced degree at Grand Valley was to overcome some of the stereotypes in Nigeria about nurses, where the profession is sometimes seen as less valuable than that of a doctor.
She also is eager to continue to serve God by serving in a community, both in Nigeria and at Exalta Health, crediting Calvin for teaching her there are more ways to serve God than only in a church setting.
As for the immediate future, she says she is loving the work at Exalta Health and for her future clinicals “would definitely love to come back here.”