MIAMI, Okla. — Mikal Scott-Werner wears several hats in her life. She’s a wife, mother of two and the second councilman for the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma.
All are roles she values. During the pandemic she’s added another role — being a nurse on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Scott-Werner is the nursing team manager for the progressive care unit at Integris Miami Hospital.
She jokes the foundation for her nursing career came at the age of 10, when she would ride across town to grandmother Ramona Scott’s house, to check her blood sugar and give her shots of insulin.
“I was the only one of my sisters who wasn’t scared to give her a shot,” she said with a laugh. “When I think about it, it’s crazy now.”
Watching nurses care for her father, Clifford Scott, during his bout with cancer helped solidify her decision to switch from her original career path to nursing.
“Seeing that experience made me want to do it more,” Scott-Werner said. “I wanted to be there for people who were sick and in need.”
From anthropology to medicine
Scott-Werner said she initially went to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah to study anthropology.
“I wanted to be a curator at a museum,” Scott-Werner said. “I still have a passion for history.”
But after attending NSU classes, the draw of nursing won out, and she returned home to attend nursing school at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami. Through twists and turns, she completed her associate degree in nursing in 2005. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas.
While going to school, she began working at the Miami hospital as a housekeeper. And it gave her a chance to be around medical professionals. She said her studies weren’t fast, but rather woven into life around raising a family and work.
After three years in the housekeeping department at Integris Miami, Scott-Werner took a job watching the heart monitors in the intensive care unit.
“It’s hard to put into words, but I love the resilience of nursing,” Scott-Werner said. “It’s a profession that’s withstood through the ages.
“I have a duty to the patient, their family that’s amazing. In this profession, the more compassionate you are, the better.”
Scott-Werner saw caring for a COVID-19 positive patient as another aspect of those beliefs — especially when the reality of the diagnosis set in.
“They would get a look on their face, and you knew they were scared,” Scott-Werner said. “They were in a room, isolated. It was important for me to make them feel safe and cared for as much as possible.”
She said she loves working in her hometown hospital. It adds a human factor to the job — her patients are people she lives near.
“I genuinely love and care for them and want to help them,” Scott-Werner said. “It’s important people have a familiar face. It gives them security.”
Scott-Werner credits Carrie Turner, her nursing director, for encouraging her to complete her education.
“I saw her interact and do things as a nurse,” she said. “It was awe inspiring. She’s an amazing person.”
Scott-Werner said working in the hospital, albeit in multiple jobs, since she was 18 has helped her become a better nurse.
“I’ve seen generations of nurses at work,” she said. “They molded me like a big group of loving mothers. This is definitely a family — always encouraging you and pushing you to keep going. They are why I didn’t quit school. I’m very lucky.”
The value of life
Scott-Werner said nursing has taught her to value all aspects of life.
She describes the pandemic as a “long shadow” rather than a short-term problem.
“We just need to stay on our toes,” Scott-Werner said. “We need to be wise and cautious.”