Dana Houle went from being a single mother on Medicaid, to becoming the director of a company that helps those who are on Medicaid. And it all began at St. Charles Community College.
Dana started taking classes at SCC when classes were held at St. Mary’s School of Nursing and her son was just 18 months old. She remembers one of her son’s first and most common phrases being, “No more homework, Mommy!”
But she didn’t listen. “I had just moved back home after living in Montana for five years, and I had a job at St. Joseph Health Center as a nurse assistant,” Dana said. “That’s where I met Pat Porterfield, a clinical nursing instructor at SCC, who brought her classes to observe my floor. She was the one who eventually convinced me to enroll in nursing school.”
Pat went the extra step and helped Dana find funds for school, including the Displaced Homemakers scholarship. Three years later, Dana was a member of SCC’s first graduating class in 1988 and participated in SCC’s first-ever nursing pinning ceremony, where she was a student speaker.
After graduating from the college, Dana was awarded a critical care fellowship at St. John’s Mercy and worked as a staff nurse in the burn center. “I had my choice of day or night rotations, which was great for me and my son,” Dana said. “I learned so much, and saw so many different kinds of patients.”
“The burn center taught me a lot about standing up for what is right, and not to take no for an answer,” Dana said. “Sometimes you have to go above and beyond what’s expected of you to make sure your patients are getting the treatment they deserve, because everyone deserves quality care.”
While she felt she made an impact in the burn center, she also became emotionally attached to the patients and their families. The emotions eventually took their toll, and after five years she left the burn center and returned to school to get her Bachelor’s of Science degree in nursing.
In 1999 Dana got a job at St. Luke’s as an IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) case management coordinator. “I only worked there a couple years, but it was a great opportunity to learn something new and different.”
After leaving St. Luke’s, Dana worked in case management and worker’s compensation with MetraComp, where she worked for 13 years.
“I started out as a manager of quality improvement, which means it was my job to get patients the right medical treatment to get them back to working full-time as soon as possible,” she said. “I did a lot of learning on the fly in the beginning, but I liked the challenge.”
Dana is now the director of quality and compliance at NurseWise, a subsidiary of Centene. Even though she hasn’t been at the bedside in several years, she said she wouldn’t be where she is today without her nursing education at SCC.
“Nursing was a vehicle for me to grow and learn both as a person and in my career,” Dana said. And she hasn’t stopped learning. She earned a master’s degree in health management from Lindenwood University in 2009, and is considering a doctorate in education.
“I’m always on the move, and there were a few times when my education had to be put on hold to put food on the table for me and my son,” she said. “But I always knew I wanted to continue my education no matter what.”