Alexis Skjelbred’s childhood hero was nurse Dixie McCall on the TV show “Emergency.” She admired Dixie’s care of patients and her problem-solving skills. Alexis wanted to be a nurse like Dixie and make a difference in the world. However, Alexis had struggled in high school and was thought to have a learning disability. Because of this perceived disability, Alexis thought she wasn’t smart enough and stopped trying to succeed in school. Her dreams of nursing faded away.
After high school Alexis worked in construction and plumbing, got married and had two daughters. The marriage eventually fell apart and Alexis found herself raising her two girls alone. In 2010 Alexis was holding down two jobs. In the day she handled scheduling and referrals at the CHAS clinic and at night she worked as a bartender. As a single parent life was hard and money was tight. Alexis’s personal goals were left behind as she focused on providing her children opportunities she had lacked. Nursing was almost a forgotten dream.
At CHAS clinic, Alexis helped medically under insured people gain access to quality specialty care and overcome challenges. Alexis’ success bred confidence in her natural ability to facilitate positive outcomes. This was a skill she had previously overlooked. It turned out that the perceived “learning disability” was just test anxiety. Alexis found that her brain worked differently, that she possessed rare skills that would help her excel in the medical profession.
At that time, Alexis was dating a farmer who recognized that Alexis was gifted, intelligent, and had more to offer society. He encouraged her to follow her dreams and go back to school. “If I help you get through nursing school, I feel like I will make an impact in the world,” he said.
The scholarship Spokane Valley Fire employees awarded to Alexis in 2013 helped turn that dream into reality. Alexis says the impact of the scholarship went far beyond the monetary help. “It wasn’t just about the money. What was more important was that smart people in a human service profession – people who were working to build the community – believed in me and gave me a chance to succeed. SVFD employees giving me that hand up meant everything to me.”
Alexis married the farmer who pushed her to succeed and she now works as a certified cardiac RN at Sacred Heart. Interactions with patients and family in critical times provide her the greatest joy. She loves to provide education and support throughout the incredibly difficult process.
“I get to help in their most vulnerable moment when they are on the cusp. To be present for and care for people in this critical time is my life’s work, and you guys are a big part of that. My education has been a blessing both at work and at a very personal level.”
This June, Alexis’s husband woke up with terrible indigestion and was just not feeling well. Alexis’s training told her that he was having a heart attack. Her quick and accurate assessment led to timely medical interventions that saved his life. Her husband never imagined that his encouragement would lead to Alexis saving his life, one of countless times Alexis has cared for people in their time of greatest need.
Alexis has provided medical care to several firefighters, and often shares her story with them. “I have cared for firefighters at different stages, including the end of life, and it is an honor and privilege. I remember a particular conversation I had with one of the firefighters. I was able to thank him personally for this scholarship and tell him how much it meant to me. Before he passed, he knew he helped to make a difference in my life.”
Alexis loves being a floor nurse but her goals don’t stop there. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” She would like to work in education and to help build resilience and support structures in the nursing community.
Alexis has this message to SVFD employees about the impact of the scholarship:
“When you help just one nurse get through nursing school, the ripple effect is enormous. You are a part of the care I give to every patient. Every code I’ve been on, every time I’ve done CPR, every single family member that we love on – you are a part of that. Supporting this scholarship is very powerful thing you can do in a very small concentrated way.”
A significant majority of the funding that provides life to this scholarship comes solely from volunteer payroll deductions by SVFD employees. Donations can also be made two other ways!
- A check can be made out to the CCS Foundation directly with ‘the George Sly Endowment’ written in the memo line.
- Or, you can donate online at ccs.foundation.org