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Michelle Feeney, FNP Barton Urgent Care

No lofty title for nurse practitioner

By Jessie Marchesseau, Tahoe Daily Tribune

As a family nurse practitioner at Barton Pediatrics, Michelle Feeney says the number one question she gets asked is: "What do I call you?"

Feeney is not a doctor, but she does perform many of the same tasks. She examines patients, orders tests, makes diagnoses and prescribes medications.

To become a nurse practitioner, Feeney did not have to meet the same education and residency requirements as a physician. However, she does possess a Bachelor of Arts degree in human biodynamics from the University of California, Berkeley and a Masters of Science degree in nursing (M.S.N.) from the University of San Francisco.

"It's hard for people to get that it's okay to see me, that they should feel comfortable and safe seeing me, and knowing that I have the education to help them," Feeney said.

And if she finds herself a little stumped by a patient's condition, Feeney does not hesitate to consult with Dr. Ehmann, the pediatrician at Barton Pediatrics.

"Our (nurse practitioners') whole thing is we obviously would never want to compromise care," she said. "So we're always going to ask for help when we need it."

A family nurse practitioner with Barton Health for eight years now, Feeney practiced at the Barton Community Clinic and at Barton Family Medicine before moving to Barton Pediatrics last December. She was looking for the chance to specialize, and, as a mother, found herself with a special interest in pediatrics.

The chance to work with Dr. Ehmann also drew Feeney to Barton Pediatrics. Dr. Ehmann has been providing care for Feeney's two children, Jay, 5, and Josie, 3, for years. She calls Ehmann an amazing physician and a great mentor.

Though she does miss family medicine sometimes, Feeney is enjoying the positive environment which comes with working around children.

In fact, even when she is not at work, Feeney spends time helping Tahoe's youth as chairperson of Barton Health's Community Advisory Committee and by volunteering for community projects such as We Can!, a program designed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to encourage and educate children to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Having always been drawn to teaching, Feeney said educating patients and families is by far her favorite part of the job.

She grew up in the Bay Area and when it was time to choose a career, Feeney knew it would either be teaching or nursing. Though she ultimately chose nursing, she did combine the two for a while, teaching clinical nursing at UCSF.

Almost exactly one year after finishing her master's degree, Feeney, still living in the Bay Area, was checking the weather forecast for a ski trip to Tahoe when she ran across an employment advertisement. The next thing she knew, she was interviewing for a job as a nurse practitioner with Barton and was hired on the spot.

"I got the the job here and didn't know that was going to lead me here and meet my husband and get married and have kids and buy a house!," she said. "But it did, so I'm here."

Feeney and her husband Jim, a controller for Sierra-at-Tahoe, and their two children take full advantage of the outdoor activities that Lake Tahoe has to offer: skiing, kayaking, water skiing and golf are a few of her favorites. She is even training to compete in an Iron Girl Triathlon.

However, Feeney realizes that not everyone is so inclined to get out exercise and explore Tahoe's natural playgrounds. She sees this as an area where she can truly make a difference by influencing and educating children.

"Despite the things that most of us who live here like to do, there's a lot of people who live here who have no sense of health and wellness," she said. "So we're trying to teach that to kids in the community."

Whether it's through her volunteer efforts or her work at Barton Pediatrics, Feeney is determined to have a positive influence on the health of Tahoe's young people.

So to answer the question, what should Feeney's patients call her? Michelle.



Michelle Feeney, FNP is currently a family nurse practitioner at Barton Urgent Care at Stateline Medical Center. 
Article previously published by the Tahoe Daily Tribune in 2011.