Leslie Shortridge began to think about becoming a nurse practitioner after she went on several short-term medical mission trips with her surgeon husband, Terry. A longtime registered nurse, she loved to learn new things and liked the idea of having more responsibility.
However, it was Shortridge’s nurse-practitioner daughters, Jennifer Wilson and Kristy Kironde, who inspired her to finally take the plunge. She, her husband and daughters, and a family friend went on a mission trip to Sakila, Tanzania in 2013 with an organization called International Evangelism Outreach.
Shortridge was deeply moved when she watched her daughters provide care during their mission. At first, she wanted to hang back and assist them, as she was concerned about her lack of training. But her daughters urged her to jump in and start helping.
“That was the final piece. I thought, I don’t want to go back to Africa again if I’m not trained as a nurse practitioner,” Shortridge said. “And I was so impressed with my daughters. It was a really good ‘mom thing.’ I just thought, ‘wow, these girls are amazing.’”
In 2016, she earned her Master of Science in Nursing from Gonzaga University and is now Leslie Shortridge, FNP-C, a certified family nurse practitioner working for The Corvallis Clinic’s QuickCare in Albany, while daughter Jennifer is at QuickCare in Corvallis. Her daughter Kristy lives in Uganda.
The Family Medical Mission
The fateful mission in 2013 was a unique experience for Shortridge and her family. Though she had been on missions before, this was the first time that they had worked together as a family unit. The situation was challenging and stressful. Though they were there for three weeks, they only had eight days of clinic time due to the labor involved in setting it up.
“It was quite the ordeal,” said Jennifer. “We would show up (at the clinic site) and every room was just packed full of junk and boxes, cockroaches everywhere… so we had to spend a few days just cleaning the clinic out and finding our supplies.” They also had to bottle and package the medications they had brought into individual portions by hand.
Practically the entire village would show up and wait for hours in line to see them. It was especially difficult due to the language barrier; speaking through interpreters, communication could be a challenge. The family had to move as quickly as possible while also providing the best care they could with their limited time and resources.
“It was hard because you couldn’t see everybody,” said Shortridge, who also has two sons. “That was sad. You had to turn people away at the end of the day. I didn’t like that.”
Though the experience could be sad and stressful at times, it was rewarding for Shortridge to help so many people while working together with her family.
“It was a memorable trip that will always be extremely special to me,” Shortridge said, then added: “I think we all got along pretty good too!”
Jennifer laughed and said, “Whenever a family is in close quarters that long together, you’re going to have some turbulence, but we did pretty good.”
Returning to School
Shortridge first started working as a registered nurse in 1981. She decided to go into the medical field because she had deep concern for people and their health, as many of her family members had health problems. This same empathy is what originally motivated her to start going on medical mission trips with her husband. Her first mission made a deep impact on her.
“It was very moving, which is putting it mildly,” Shortridge said. “To see people with health issues that are extremely serious. Advanced cases of cancer, out of control infections, abscesses … the severe cases you see in the United States are commonplace there.”
As a registered nurse and not yet a nurse practitioner, Shortridge didn’t have as much training as she would have liked during these missions.
“Mom kept talking about it and she’d say, ‘I’m too old to go back to school,’” Jennifer said. “And I keep telling her, ‘You know, in three years, you’re going to be three years older, whether you go or not. So you can be three years older and look back and say you wish you had done it, or you can start now.”
Though Shortridge found it stressful to return to school she put everything into it.
“She worked hard, she was dedicated,” Jennifer said proudly. “People her age generally don’t go back to school because they all struggle with thinking there’s no point. So to do that is brave.”
“Or a little crazy,” Shortridge added with a laugh.
Now, Shortridge is grateful that she returned to school and completed the additional training to become a nurse practitioner.
“I love working with people, and helping them. I like putting all the pieces together of the education and being able to make more of a difference,” said Shortridge.
Kristy Kironde: Continuing Work in Africa
With a mother who was a nurse and a father who was a surgeon, Jennifer and Kristy were both interested in the medical field from a young age, though in different ways. Kristy wanted to be a veterinarian until she went on her first mission trip to Thailand at 15.
“I realized I would rather serve people than animals in the medical field,” Kristy said. “As I went into nursing school I soon discovered that it fit well with aspects of my personality and passion for people.”
Kristy then studied to become a family nurse practitioner and worked in family practice for two and a half years. However, she still had a craving to work overseas, which had stuck with her ever since her first mission trip, and had continued as she had travelled to China multiple times while in high school.
In 2013, Kristy had the opportunity to move to Uganda to work for a non-profit organization. So after the family mission trip in Tanzania, Kristy stayed in Africa and has been there ever since. Now she works for an organization called Revelation Life, where she works in the slums of Kampala. She met her husband in this organization, and the two of them are working together there.
Kristy is proud of her mother for going back to school. “She is brilliant and has so much potential. I know she is a fabulous nurse practitioner!” she said.
Jennifer Wilson: Working with Mom at QuickCare
Jennifer was also naturally interested in the medical field, but as her mother was a nurse and her father a physician, she wanted to do something different initially. “I wanted to do my own thing, I didn’t want to do what either of them did,” said Jennifer. So she started studying to become a registered dietitian, but toward the end of the program, realized that this wouldn’t be a good fit for her.
“I started reevaluating, thinking… well, why don’t I want to be a nurse? And I realized that it fit what I wanted to do,” Jennifer explained. Then after working several years as a nurse, she went on to become a nurse practitioner. “I wanted to be able to expand my knowledge and my scope of practice, and take on more responsibility. It’s in the blood.”
Shortridge is a recent addition to the QuickCare team, while Jennifer has worked there for a year and a half.
“It’s been a good group of people to work with,” said Shortridge. “People love QuickCare because it really meets a need. I was here on Easter, and a patient was so grateful because nothing else was open. That really made it worth being here.”