NEENAH — Life takes its unexpected turns. A few years back, after decades working in the field of nursing, Ellen Beltz, an advanced practice nurse practitioner (APNP), found herself making a career change, accepting a position to teach nursing to undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Later, “Out of the blue, I got a call from one of my high school friends and her sister was on the board of Vida Medical Clinic and Support Services in Appleton,” said Beltz, who was then in need of practice hours to maintain her APNP accreditation.
Vida, which offers free and confidential medical services for women and men as well as support services for mothers and their children through age 3, was looking for a medical practitioner who could work at the clinic part time.
It wasn’t a paid position, but it counted as practice hours. “So I thought, ‘God really answered that call,’” said Beltz.
Some seven years later and now retired from teaching, Beltz is still committed to volunteering at Vida.
“Nurse manager Heidi Weiland and I work together very closely. I can work remotely, so at home I sign all the nurses’ charts,” she said.
According to Beltz, Vida is a life-affirming clinic.
“We strive to help people make healthy life-choosing decisions, including preborn lives,” she said. “I always tell the nurses, ‘I hear you saving lives every day on the phone,’ because a lot of our patients are in crisis situations and even to have someone to talk to helps. This is a very underserved population.”
Hope Clinic & Care Center, a free clinic in Menasha, has partnered up with Vida. “We work with clients who are low income, don’t speak English, or possibly they’re not here legally, so they’re afraid to access services,” she said. “A lot of our clients have insurance, but many times it’s a very high-deductible insurance or they might have an outstanding bill with their doctor.”
Beltz and her husband, Tom Trevarthen, belong to St. Margaret Mary Parish, where Beltz is an active volunteer.
“My biggest thing there now is I’m on the faith enrichment committee,” she said. “We assisted with ‘Rock the Block’ in May (a Habitat for Humanity initiative); we did a prayer walk the night before to launch it.”
Beltz said her Catholic faith helps to guide her work at Vida Medical Clinic.
“I think it’s like the song we sang in Mass, ‘We Are Called,’” she said, repeating the verse:
“We are called to act with justice. We are called to love tenderly. We are called to serve one another. To walk humbly with God.”
“I hope God’s love light in me shines on the patients we see,” she said.
While all of her volunteer work is gratifying, for Beltz, she said her work at Vida Medical Clinic has been a blessing.
“I think it’s holy ground. When I came here, I just needed practice hours and then I listened to the nurses. I see what’s done here and I’m amazed,” she said. “It keeps me grounded, too. I think my life is very privileged. I see these people and I’m simply in awe of the burden they’re carrying. Instead of judging how they do it, I’m simply in awe that they live carrying the burdens that they have.”
Beltz knows that her volunteer work is God’s work, and she’s humbled by the comments she hears from patients.
“We always do exit interviews and the comments we get back are, ‘I felt loved,’ ‘I didn’t feel judged,’ ‘I felt cared about,’” she said. “I know that’s reaping fruit down the line for our clients, even if we don’t see them for long-term relationships because they are pretty transient.”
Name: Ellen Beltz
Parish: St. Margaret Mary, Neenah
Words to live by: “Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks, such is God’s will for you through Christ Jesus.” Thes. 5:16-18