Family and desire to be versatile brings Coal Country nurse practitioner to Killdeer

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Cassandra Altringer wanted to work in a rural area where here family lives.

The answer was Killdeer.

Altringer is the newest Family Nurse Practitioner at Coal Country Health Clinic in Killdeer. The community got to meet the 29-year-old Altringer on Tuesday during a “meet-and-greet” at the clinic with a soda pop floats.

The meet-and-greet was also part of Coal Country Health Clinic’s celebration of the National Health Center Week.

“I love being here,” said Altringer, who started at the Killdeer clinic on July 12.

As a Family Nurse Practitioner, Altringer will provide care to patients for acute and chronic issues. That could range from minor injuries where a simple band aide is needed to more serious injuries where suturing skills are necessary.

In fact, on her second day, a patient came in with an injury to two of his fingers on his left hand. He cut them while working on a project. This being her first case involving an open wound, Altringer was concerned that there may be nerve damage. Before she did anything, she contacted specialists at the Bone and Joint clinic in Bismarck. She was advised that it would be OK to stitch the wound.

“It was the first time I stitched somebody up without somebody watching over my shoulder,” she said.

It was those type of incident that convinced Altringer to seek rural health care.

“I wanted to work in rural health care. I wanted to do it all,” Altringer said. “I wanted to use my skills to its full potential.”

In the metropolitan area, her position would be more specialized, Altringer said, and she would not have the opportunities to be more versatile as in a rural setting.

Altringer spent her childhood in Hazen before the family moved to Red Wing, Minn., when she was in the eighth grade. She graduated from Red Wing High School in 2005 and it was there that she started her journey to be a family nurse practitioner.

While in high school, she was the manager of the baseball the team. The coach was her anatomy teacher whose wife happed to be a nurse. The coach, after seeing how Altringer worked with her classmates and members of the baseball team, suggested she consider a nursing career.

Ironically, Altringer was already thinking about being a nurse. When she was 15, she opened a bank account and the secret question on the form was: “What is your dream job?” Her answer: “Nurse.”

Altringer agreed to shadow the coach’s wife for a day in the hospital where she worked. After that experience, Altringer knew she was going to be a nurse practitioner.

After graduating from high school, she attended South East Technical Community College in Red Wing, where she received her License Practical Nurse diploma. The next year she earned her Associates of Arts degree as a Registered Nurse.

During this time, she worked at a nursing home to supplement her income and to gain valuable experience in long-term care.

Following her graduation, she transferred to Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree as a Registered Nurse in 2012. And four years later, Altringer earned her Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

She was also working at the Mayo Clinic in Lake City, Minn., where she worked in acute care and transition in emergency department. She was also the Charge Nurse, which meant she was in charge of the nursing staff and nursing home at night.

After graduation, however, she yearned for the rural life. So she left the Mayo Clinic and moved back to North Dakota. She started with Coal Country on June 13 and started training in Beulah, before moving to Killdeer a month later, with her boyfriend of 12 years, Javad, and their 3-year-old son, Paxton.

It’s been a perfect fit.

And having family so close makes it even better. Although they don’t live in Killdeer, they are but a stone’s throw away. She has a sister in Halliday, her father and stepmother are in Twin Buttes, grandmother lives in Golden Valley, her aunt is in Hazen and her mom lives in Beulah.

“It’s been a long road. I never thought I would see this day,” Altringer said. “When I thought about what I would be doing when I started this program, I am doing just that.”   

  


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