When Nurse Practitioner Mary O’Connor came to the Zearing Medical Clinic in December of 1997, there were three things she wanted: X-ray equipment, a pharmacy and a partner.
In May of 2012, the Zearing Clinic received X-ray equipment. In March of 2013, NuCara brought a pharmacy to town and as the new year is about to begin, O’Connor is thrilled about the clinic’s future with her new partner, Kylea Ryther, also a nurse practitioner.
Ryther, 34, isn’t a new face to the clinic. The Ankeny resident has been driving to the clinic one or two days a week for a couple years now. She did her practicum experience under O’Connor in Zearing while she was finishing classes - mostly online - with the University of Iowa to earn her doctorate in nursing.
"I’ve loved this place since day one," Ryther said. "It’s organized, homey, everybody’s helpful and nice, and they love their jobs."
As for working with O’Connor, Ryther said she’s been a great teacher. "She’s always willing to help me and encourage me. She has worked to help me meet my goals of becoming the independent provider that I want to be." Ryther said there’s a certain comfort level that she has had working with O’Connor, who she describes as easy to work for and respectful. "She’s treated me as an equal."
Originally from a little town called College Springs in southwest Iowa, Ryther said rural medicine and Zearing are a good fit for her. "I’m from a small town too, and I knew when going through school that this (family practice medicine in a small town) is what I wanted to do," she said. A high school graduate of South Page High School, Ryther said there were about 300 kids total in kindergarten through the 12th grade.
She left College Springs after high school and came to Des Moines to attend Grand View College and pursue a nursing degree. Despite a few roadbumps, and a time when she didn’t know if she would continue in nursing, Ryther eventually came back to the profession. She worked six to seven years as a nurse before starting work on her doctorate to qualify as a nurse practitioner. Along with working and being a full-time student, Ryther is also raising three boys with her husband Josh. Their sons are Parker, 9; Charlie, 5 and Jack, 4.
She started full-time in Zearing in August, and has gone through a lot of training this fall. After the first of the year, she will be ready for the clinic’s expanded hours, part of which she’ll cover on her own.
In January, the Zearing Clinic’s hours will expand to 12-hour days, with O’Connor working from 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; and Ryther working from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. This will all be good for the community, said Ryther, who loves working in the little northeast Story County town.
"Zearing reminds me of being at home, where everybody knows a little bit about everyone. It’s so nice. People come in and they want to meet you and know who you are. It’s very welcoming."
Ryther said she looks forward to serving patients and being able to reach out to the community to help people. "It’s kind of a see all, do all," she said. She believes the Zearing Clinic, which is an affiliate of Story County Medical Center, really gives her the opportunity to fulfill all the things she’s learned in her education. "I was looking for a challenge and this was a good challenge."
O’Connor is excited about what lies ahead at the Zearing Clinic. When it comes to Ryther, O’Connor said, "This (hiring of her full-time) completes my dream for the clinic, and I can’t say how much that means." When asked if she has any comments about her new partner’s abilities, O’Connor gives that heartwarming smile she’s often seen wearing, looks straight at Ryther and gives the affirmative nod. "She’s going to change the world."