Skip to content

College of Nursing

Neighborhood Nurses - Brenda Kretzschmer

  • slide
  • slide
  • slide
  • slide

Situated in the “Thumb,” Pigeon, Michigan is a sleepy town of 1,200. Like many small towns, it has its Main Street with local businesses, such as a bakery, paint shop and bank. Nearby, an old train depot has been converted into an earthy green historical museum, while a red barn has been transformed into a bandshell, where entertainers delight crowds during idyllic — and non-pandemic — Michigan summers.


One thing that sets Pigeon apart from many small towns in Michigan is its easy access to a hospital. Located in the northwest part of town, Scheurer Health’s big, brick breezeway welcomes patients, and its array of services has been an asset to the community. The health system also has clinics in neighboring communities.


For Brenda Kretzschmer, BSN ’95, the Thumb is ingrained in her life. It’s where she grew up and where she now cares for her family, friends and neighbors as a family nurse practitioner at a Scheurer Health clinic in nearby Sebewaing. She knew she was destined to come back home after her time at the Michigan State University College of Nursing.


“After finishing a nurse externship at Scheurer Hospital during my last year of school, I re-fell in love with the small-town community,” said Kretzschmer. “There’s nowhere you go where you don’t recognize someone. You’re always around people who know you and care about you. Caring for patients at a personal level has made me fall in love with nursing even more.”


Following graduation, Kretzschmer returned to Pigeon with her husband, Mark, who is also an alumnus and runs a family farm that dates back generations. Later on, she pursued her family nurse practitioner degree, a path that was forged long before, having shadowed a nurse practitioner in high school.


Despite the small-town charm and neighborly atmosphere that surrounds the rural communities of Huron County, delivering top notch, quality care is a challenge.


“The number one obstacle is limited access to care,” said Kretzschmer. While satellite clinics become more prevalent, many communities in Huron County do not often see face-to-face interaction with specialized healthcare professionals.


Kretzschmer’s nursing colleagues are all too familiar with the challenges that their communities face.


“Access to specialty care has always been an obstacle,” said Yvette Scharf, a Huron County-based family nurse practitioner. “My nursing friends that work in the city can refer their psych patients to a specialist that’s close by. Psych is not a service that we have. It may take a patient months to see a psychiatrist.”


“In order to have a strong house, you need to have a good foundation." —Brenda Kretzschmer


This lack of specialty care causes a trickle-down effect for advanced practice providers and nurses alike, which results in a much heavier workload and can lead to negative patient outcomes.


“There are very few doctors in the area,” Scharf added. “More care is provided by advanced practice providers, so our role is essential because patients may have to wait weeks to see a physician if we weren’t here.”


As the pandemic continues, neighboring communities in Huron County, much like Pigeon, have seen a significant rise in mental health patients.


“COVID-19 has caused a lot of strain on people’s mental health of all ages,” said Trevor Mattarella, a family nurse practitioner at Scheurer Primary Care – Pigeon. “From ages 10 to fully grown adults, we’re seeing it all.”


Mattarella also faces the trickle-down effect of not having necessary access to specialty care for his patients.


“We don’t have many places to refer to them to and many times, it puts us in the place of a psychiatrist,” he said. “I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve, but it becomes a bit too much to manage.”


To combat these issues, Kretzschmer has developed many community-health initiatives. In 2000, she helped build a certified diabetes education program at Scheurer Hospital, which remains strong to this day.


She also helped develop a health clinic at three high schools in Huron County, which provide care to junior high and high school students. This encompasses health education, feeding those without access to care, and collaborating care with primary care providers of students.


As she overcomes these challenges, Kretzschmer credits her education at the College of Nursing for much of her success.


“In order to have a strong house, you need to have a good foundation,” she said. “The house that MSU built allowed me to grow my career. Seeing the different specializations in nursing practice at MSU allowed me to bring new ideas to a smaller community.”