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College of Nursing

Neighborhood Nurses - Tamara Lemons

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Once known as a community of innovation in the mid-1800s, Tipton, Michigan and its rolling green hills rest in Lenawee County, about 22 miles north of Ohio. Home to less than 2,000, the “downtown” area is defined by the homes of its residents, along with two brick buildings that remain vacant.


The local church lays right off the main intersection and holds the title of tallest building in town. Known for its scenic beauty, Tipton is home of Michigan State University's Hidden Lake Gardens, a 755-acre botanical garden and arboretum that attracts many.


Spartan nurse Tamara Lemons, MSN ’19, is a product of Tipton and proud of her roots.


“It was a very peaceful place to be raised,” Lemons recalled. “I grew up on a 14-acre piece of land where we owned chickens and horses.”


Like many raised in rural communities of the Midwest, Lemons was involved in 4-H Foundation and Future Farmers of America. These experiences, along with her natural love for animals, guided her toward the field of veterinary medicine. After shadowing a veterinarian, plans changed.


“I found that I loved the medical aspect of science and anatomy but didn’t want it related to animals,” she said.


After volunteering at nearby Hope Medical Clinic in Ypsilanti, Lemons decided nursing was for her. She graduated from the Accelerated BSN program at the Michigan State University College of Nursing in 2010.


Lemons spent the next few years sharpening her skills at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, followed by a move to Allegiance Health in Jackson, Michigan, where she worked on an intensive care unit (ICU) floor. It was closer to home and her patient population felt more familiar.


“I absolutely loved the challenge in the ICU,” she said. It was during her time in Jackson that a nursing colleague and mentor enrolled in the Nurse Anesthesia program at the College of Nursing. Lemons heard nothing but great things about the program and decided it was time for a career shift. She enrolled in the program and never looked back.


“I really can’t say enough good things about the program, it really prepared me,” she added, “Most people describe it as a rough time, but I enjoyed learning the material and had a very supportive husband. I must’ve gone to 10 different clinical locations across the state.”


With this notch in her belt, she has remained dedicated to serving the rural community, this time at Hillsdale Hospital, which lies about 35 miles from Tipton.


“From emergency surgeries to childbirths, you never know what you're going to get at this little hospital." —Tamara Lemons

Lemons wears many hats at this smaller hospital, which sits minutes away from country roads and familiar sights from her childhood. She has never been shy of a challenge and remains game for the day-to-day wonders that stroll in.


“We get anything that comes through the emergency room. From emergency surgeries to childbirths, you never know what you’re going to get at this little hospital,” she said. “That also keeps it exciting at a place where we’re busy Monday through Friday.”


The heavy demand that she experiences presents other challenges.


“We are still an independent hospital, so we have to be more fiscally responsible,” Lemons said. “We may not have many staff on call and only keep a certain amount of supplies because we’re a smaller hospital.”


Through serving Latino and Amish populations, she has found that cultural and language barriers can present a challenge at times.


A shortage of specialty care and staff adds another layer of difficulty to her work and is a problem that other nurse anesthetists encounter at Hillsdale Hospital. Nurse Anesthetist John Mach works alongside Lemons and has spent 17 years at Hillsdale Hospital.


“In a rural setting, you’re married to your job and there isn’t a lot of vacation, which requires commitment,” Mach said. “It’s a rewarding career, you see your patients at the grocery store and gain trust with them. The hospital provides a family atmosphere and that’s why I stay here.”


Nurse anesthetist Sharee Vogel, MSN’16, who is a colleague of Lemons, said they have to be very knowledgeable and consider every aspect of a patient’s care.


“We work independently, by doing that, there’s an added layer of responsibility because we don’t have someone else to make decisions for us,” added Vogel.


At the end of the day, Lemons loves what she does and finds that her role as a nurse anesthetist at a rural hospital has allowed for greater connection with the people she serves.


“I get to follow up with patients in the recovery room,” Lemons noted. “I didn’t get that as an ICU nurse, and it gives me the opportunity to change what I’m doing. Their compliments really make my day.”