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Community Health Nurse Beth Ennis set to retire – limited services available while search for new health nurse continues

It’s not often that a dream held dear as a child turns into a reality but for Beth Ennis, her love of nursing as a youngster did indeed transform into a decades-long career.

For the past 21 years, Ennis has played a vital role for the communities in northern Nye County, holding the position of community health nurse in the town of Tonopah. In an area where medical services are scarce, Ennis’ efforts have had an incredibly positive impact.

Now, however, the time has come for Ennis to retire and while she will undoubtedly be missed as a health nurse, the community is not losing her entirely. Ennis said she has no plans to leave the area she fell in love with all those years ago and will transition into retirement right where she is now, in Tonopah.

“I was always going to be a nurse. I got a little doctor’s kit when I was probably six or seven years old and nursing has always been valued by my family,” Ennis said in an interview on Wednesday, June 24. “My mom always had an interest in nursing and although she wasn’t a nurse, she loved taking care of people. I kind of followed in her footsteps in that. And I found out later that a great-aunt that I was sort of named after was one of the first nurses in the area where I grew up and in fact, she lived in the same house I grew up in so maybe, kind of by osmosis, nursing got me too.”

Ennis said she wound up in Tonopah by happenstance and she has never regretted the circumstances that led her to the place she calls home.

“I went to a three-year nursing school, then I went on to get my bachelor’s degree right away. After that, I worked in public health in three different states and I decided that I wanted to be more independent, so I got my nurse practitioner certification and was living in Wyoming at the time,” Ennis detailed of her career experience.

“The situation was such that with my husband’s work and my schooling, we were looking for somewhere else to move and he thought maybe Las Vegas was where he wanted to move to. So we moved to Vegas and existed there for a year but that was not a good fit for us,” Ennis continued. “Then somehow, somewhere I saw an ad that Nye Regional Medical Center was looking for providers and I thought, ‘Well heck, apply!’ We were looking for a small town, a place where I could start my nurse practitioner career and they were willing to take me on. It being a small town with wide open spaces, we fell in love with Tonopah and have been here for 23 years.”

Ennis said she has many fond memories of her time as the Community Health Nurse but there are a few that stick out in her mind, namely, the positive effect she has had on the lives of those she has cared for in the past two decades.

“When I can look at the graduating class from the high school and see how many in that class, both females and males, that I have helped accomplish getting their education without also adding a family to the mix, I feel very proud of that,” Ennis said.

With a recent health needs assessment conducted by the Northern Nye County Hospital District, Ennis said she was able to see that the teen birth rate statistic for Nye County is below the state average, which is partly due to the work that Ennis has put in over the years.

“That makes me proud, that I am able to help kids get an education without adding extra burdens that might derail them from being able to meet their potential,” she remarked.

The awards Ennis has received for immunization rates is another point for which she expressed pride. In 2014, she was honored by Immunize Nevada as the Outstanding Immunization Nurse for Northern Nevada and in that same year, the Tonopah Community Health Nurse Office was chosen as the Outstanding Immunization Program in Northern Nevada. The office was honored once again in 2017 as the Outstanding Rural Immunization Program for Northern Nevada and in 2019, Ennis was nominated for the National Immunization Champion Recognition and was a finalist for the CDC Childhood Immunization Award, “in recognition of significant contributions to public health through work in childhood immunizations,” she detailed.

“Having helped prevent vaccine-preventable diseases has meant a lot to me,” Ennis said. “We’ve had two whooping cough outbreaks in my tenure here and I was able to quickly work with others to get a circle around that and get it stopped so it didn’t expand farther. Those types of things have always been a focus for me as a public health nurse.

“I have also had some individuals that I have worked with, who I have helped along with some of their problems, got them steered in the right direction and they then picked up on that and have done what was important for them for the betterment of their lives,” Ennis stated, noting that having the ability to be of service to so many has given her a great sense of satisfaction.

Ennis said now that she is looking to retirement, she has half a room full of quilt piecing material just waiting to be engaged and this is going to be a major focus for her. “I love to piece quilts and that’s a big thing I want to do, get to some of those projects that are waiting,” Ennis said, adding that she will enjoy spending more quality time with her husband, who also recently retired, as well.

“I just thank people for the trust and confidence they have had in me over the years and I’ve really appreciated and valued the ability to provide the service that I have to the community. And I want folks to continue to take good care of themselves,” Ennis said as her interview drew to a close.

Ennis’ retirement was official as of Friday, June 26. Of course, now that she has retired, there is an opportunity for someone else to step in and build a career as the Community Health Nurse in Tonopah.

“My understanding is, we are still looking for applicants for that. In the interim, nurses from two of the neighboring state health care offices will be covering the office here on a part-time basis so people can still call and get scheduled for service. So service is still here, it will just be on a more limited basis until the position is filled full time,” Ennis stated.

Those interested in learning more about the Community Health Nurse IV position can contact Community Health Nursing Supervisor Tammy Ritter at 775-684-5031.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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