By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
Judy Chant’s Friday did not begin with an 8 o’clock, but she had work to do before her 9 o’clock. At least she would be done after Chapel.
Chant began her third stint in college last semester.
This time around, she will not put herself through 8 a.m. classes after sleepless nights or long days on little nutrition. Her job is to take care of the students who put themselves through that and the hundreds of others who go through the medical clinic each week.
Chant began as a part-time nurse practitioner in the medical clinic in February 2003. Her journey to ACU and Abilene itself brought her several thousand miles and into a different medical specialty.
She was born in Victoria, British Columbia, where she spent much of her life on the water and around national parks. She opted to go back to nursing school in her mid-20s and began working in the cardiac unit of the hospital.
“I was the first nursing student they let into the cardiac unit at that hospital,” Chant said.
She continued working in the cardiac unit with her husband, a cardiologist, who went to school at Emory University in Atlanta, and dreamed of being able to practice medicine in the United States.
The opportunity came in 1994 when a position opened in a West Texas town Chant had never heard of: Abilene.
“Coming here was a major shock for me,” she said about leaving the lakes and parks of Canada behind for the plains and heat of West Texas-even after almost 11 years, the word “about” still brings out the best in her Canadian accent.
With the change in scenery, Chant also decided to move out of the cardiac unit to somewhere she might be able to see a wider variety of patients and ailments. Becoming licensed as a nurse practitioner allowed her the opportunity to treat patients of any age.
“As a nurse practitioner, I can see patients; I can write prescriptions myself,” she said. “I can do pretty much anything a physician does, but I just have to work under him.”
But making the switch from Canada to Texas and from cardiac care to general care did not always prove seamless.
“The terms, the names for the drugs were all different,” Chant said. “Plus, I had never worked in an office setting,” something to which she has now grown accustomed.
After receiving a master’s degree in nursing and being licensed as a nurse practitioner, she felt another calling-a calling to serve.
Chant discovered the Presbyterian Medical Mission in Abilene and began volunteering there two days each week. The mission serves those without health care, and payment is determined on a sliding scale based on each patient’s income.
“I just feel I was called to help those people in need-to help those people that fall through the cracks-and modify health care to fit their environment,” she said.
Chant first saw the job for a nurse practitioner posted in a newspaper in 2003 and immediately thought working with college students would be the perfect job for her, but she almost did not even apply. The advertisement called for a full-time employee, and Chant wanted to be able to be home with her daughters, Gillian, 11, and Ginger, 10, when they arrived home from school each day.
At the time, she did not know Dr. Tony Rector, medical director for clinical services, but she happened to meet his wife, who convinced Chant to apply for the position even though she could only work part time.
When she applied in February, however, Rector said he was already forced to change the job description because of budget cuts. He needed a part-time nurse practitioner, and Chant was perfect for the position.
Rector said he wanted someone who, aside from having high professional capability, could bring faith into the workplace. Chant’s r�sum� alone almost told him enough.
“Here’s a woman who has worked in the Mission clinic helping people,” Rector said. “I think that says a lot right there.”
Chant, who began working shortly after applying, now sees seven to 12 students each weekday from about 8:30 to noon.
“I’m like an extension of Dr. Rector,” she said.
Mostly, she sees cases of upper respiratory illness, sports injuries, stress and anxiety, and she has no doubt she is in the right profession.
“I love it. I feel like I’m their mother. I feel like it’s preparing me for when my kids go to a university.”
Chant’s phone rang at 9:05 a.m. Friday, and the receptionist’s voice came over the speakerphone:
“Your 9 o’clock patient is here.”
Chant began to gather her things but wanted students to know one more thing about her job.
“We’re here for them,” she said, picking up a clipboard, slipping on her white lab coat and heading off to live that promise to her first patient of the day.