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Nurse Prescribes Reading

February 26th, 2020

NOEL — Children around McDonald County call her “The Book Nurse.” Since starting as a family nurse practitioner at Ozarks Community Hospital’s clinic in Noel four months ago, Karen Madsen has earned that title.

Nearly half of the clinic’s patients are under 18, and Madsen discovered many of them had few books of their own at home, something that troubled her. Books can help children gain knowledge and promote overall emotional health and happiness. So “The Book Nurse” was born.

First using books she purchased on her own, Madsen began asking children after their medical visits if they would like a free book. She saw their faces light up when they picked out a book — anything from a beginner Dr. Seuss book to chapter books for teenagers.

As the program has grown, she solicited book donations from her family and from others in the OCH organization. Now she always has a bundle of books close by for her next patient’s visit. To date, she has provided more than 150 free books to children from Noel and throughout McDonald County.

After a few weeks of distributing books, children throughout the community began telling their friends the tale of “The Book Nurse,” and before long children were coming in for routine health visits asking by that name to see her, said Colton Holland, director of the Noel Clinic.

“We had a child come in for an appointment and ask her: ‘Are you The Book Nurse?’” Holland said. “We realized that what she was doing was spreading throughout the community, and people were more comfortable coming to the doctor because they felt like they knew her already. Many times we find that people are reluctant to come to the doctor for a variety of reasons, but people enjoy coming to see ‘The Book Nurse.’ Karen’s kindness really goes a long way.”

Madsen’s most poignant encounter was with a child who said she had never owned a book and clutched her new book from “The Book Nurse” as if it was her most prized possession.

“She looked at all the books and chose one — Charlotte’s Web — and said, ‘I’ve never read this one before!’” Madsen said. “She hugged the nurse and told her how happy it made her feel. It was a sweet thing to see.”

“I think that it’s shocking that in 2020 there are children in this country who don’t own a book,” she continued. “I’m trying to do whatever I can do to correct that.”

Books have been a lifelong passion for Madsen. The granddaughter of a long-time kindergarten teacher, Jessie Showalter, Karen grew up in adjacent Newton County, where she obtained her first library card at age 5. It didn’t take long for her to be a regular at the library, reading as much as she was able.

Her home was filled with books as well, which enlightened her childhood. One of her favorites was “Little Women.”

“Books have always been a part of my life, and when I was thinking of ways to give back to my patients, I thought giving children a book would be a lot better than just giving them a piece of candy,” Madsen said. “It’s a way to show them that I truly care about them.”

Madsen credits the entire team at the Noel clinic for growing the free book program, which has become an opportunity to provide extra outreach to the community. First, people have to feel comfortable coming to the clinic, which provides both preventative healthcare and assists those who are sick. While many people avoid the doctor because they fear it will cost too much, and with some in the community who can’t speak English, staff members make extra efforts to help patients feel comfortable by helping them with affordable healthcare options and ensuring they feel well cared for when they come in. In fact, the clinic never turns away “walk-in” patients who don’t have an appointment, even if that means working past closing time.

Holland says the team — Citlaly “Lolly” Hernandez, Natalia Vazquez and Rosa Sanchez — will do things like sitting next to patients in the waiting room who are having trouble filling out new patient paperwork, and they are extra compassionate to those patients visiting the doctor for the first time — both children and adults — who may be anxious or uncomfortable. They will also help patients who are concerned about their healthcare costs, working directly with insurance companies and providing affordable options to those who don’t have insurance.

The entire team in Noel has embraced “The Book Nurse” and her idea, which has grown efforts to ensure every child in McDonald County has his or her own book. It has also built trust in the community that everyone will be well cared for.

“This effort starts at the front from the moment people walk into our clinic,” Madsen said. “It’s all of us working together. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do, and I’m excited about how we’re going to continue to do this in the future.”

Madsen smiles when she’s told children in the community have called her “The Book Nurse,” a title she embraces, and thinks of her grandmother, who she hopes would be very proud of her efforts. She wants to pass on that love of books to the children in the community.

“If that’s how they remember me, that would be perfectly fine with me,” Madsen said, humbly. “You get to a place where the difference you make in life is much more important than anything else, and I think we should all remember that.”


Local healthcare expert to host Medicaid Expansion Q&A tour throughout SWMO

July 1st, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, July 1, 2013
Andrea Harp, Communications Manager
Office: (417) 874-4523, Cell: (417) 894-5071
Email: [email protected]

Springfield, MO – Missouri residents are invited to attend one of many open community forums on Medicaid expansion hosted throughout Southwest Missouri this July and August.

The forums will be lead by local expert Paul Taylor, CEO and chief legal counsel of Springfield-based Ozarks Community Hospital. Each forum will provide community members with an overview of what’s currently going on with Medicaid expansion and give real answers as to how the actions of the state legislature will directly impact Missouri employers, the local economy and individuals.

“We wanted to offer a series of open forums to help Missouri residents truly understand what’s going on with Medicaid expansion,” says Paul. “Whether it passes or not, the decisions made this fall will affect everyone from employers to individuals with private insurance. Our goal is to provide local communities with clear, accessible information so they understand how it affects them and what they can do about it.”

Paul Taylor has been featured as a guest columnist in Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news organization featuring coverage of health care policy and politics. He was also featured in Becker’s Hospital Review and Modern Healthcare, publications covering healthcare business and policy news, advocating healthcare reform.

The kick-off community forum will take place Tuesday, July 2 in Mt.Vernon. Following community forums will also take place on the following dates and locations:


  • Tuesday, July 2 @ 6pm – Mt. Vernon (OCH Lawrence County Clinic – 108 S. Main)
  • Tuesday, July 9 @ 5:30pm – Rogersville (Webster County Library – 104 N. Beatie St)
  • Thursday, July 18 @ 6pm – Bolivar (Polk County Library – 1690 W. Broadway)
  • Tuesday, July 23 @ 6pm – Marshfield (Empire Bank Meeting Room – 1197 Spur Drive)
  • Tuesday, July 30 @ 6pm – Nixa (OCH Christian County Clinic – 105 S. Ridgecrest)
  • Monday, August 12 @ 6pm – Noel (Noel Housing Authority – 624 Johnson Dr)
  • Monday, August 19 @ 6pm – Springfield (OCH North Conference Room – 2828 N. National)
  • Thursday, August 29 @ 6pm – Webb City (Webb City Library – 101 S. Liberty Ave)

Contact Caitlin Whitworth for additional details (417) 439-1049 or email [email protected].

Ozarks Community Hospital (OCH) has facilities throughout Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas. In 2012, OCH touched more than 50% of the total Medicaid covered lives in the area. OCH focuses on the delivery of primary care to Medicaid, Medicare and uninsured patients in the communities served, providing discounts of 40% or more to the uninsured. OCH has never sued a patient to collect a bill and pays all local, state and federal taxes. For more information, visit www.OCHonline.com.


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