Posted 3/08/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
Tioga Medical Center’s newest nurse practitioner came to study the state’s low rates of obesity and her research found something interesting about the people of North Dakota.
Lorena Mitchell is also no stranger to working with people in industry -- she used to be one of them.
Prior to pursuing her career in nursing, Mitchell was a welder, which she trained to do after taking night classes while working as a construction runner.
She worked for 17 years as a process pipe welder, which is someone who works on pipes within factory processes like gas plants and paper mills.
From welder to nurse
Mitchell grew concerned about how years of manual labor and the chemicals involved might eventually impact her.
“I always wanted a formal education. So, I cashed in my 401K and went to school,” she said.
Her father had a Ph.D. in political science and two of her sisters are college professors, so she came from an academically-directed family.
Now, after nine years of experience in nursing, she is happy to be living in Tioga and working at TMC.
“These nurses are phenomenal,” Mitchell said.
She also praised the quality of the facility, with its newly expanded clinic and ER rooms that put everything under one roof.
Mitchell has lived all over the United States and traveled all over the world.
As a child, she was a competitive swimmer and traveled to Hawaii and Japan to compete.
She lived many years in North Carolina, where the trees grow thick. She said she prefers North Dakota’s open plains.
“It’s a little claustrophobic out there. It’s hard to see out that far,” she said.
Her first connection to the state came when she was doing an investigation into childhood obesity to satisfy requirements of her master’s degree.
She began her investigation by looking into native populations in the state but became interested in a peculiar aspect of the European population.
Despite having a diet heavy on meat and potatoes and lighter on vegetables and fruits compared to other states, the rate of obesity in North Dakota was relatively low.
In her research, she concluded a likely cause was the state’s work ethic and the level of physical activity in children.
“Parents take the time and energy to ensure their kids get to school athletic activities,” Mitchell said.
Happy in Tioga
Since that beginning, she’s worked in Bismarck, Watford City, and Dickinson.
Now that she’s arrived in Tioga, she’s enjoying the character of life in a “tight community” where “everybody helps everybody.”
“The work ethic is one of the most admirable I’ve ever seen,” she said.
She said her care philosophy is one that engages and empowers the patient with the information and strategies they need to have the best health possible.
She wants to help people who have chronic conditions attain the highest quality of life possible.
“I want to help them and be an ally with that,” she said.