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Beloved Newcastle PA retires

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Photo by KateLynn Slaamot/NLJ Mike Carpenter, PA-C, said that, while he will miss treating the folks of Weston County at Weston County Health Services, he is looking forward to enjoying his retirement.
KateLynn Slaamot, NLJ Reporter

In rural health care, provider and patient relationships evolve into a personal bond because providers really get to know the patients they take care of for years, and sometimes they even take care of families across multiple generations. Michael Carpenter, a certified physician assistant at Weston County Health Services, recently retired, but he built plenty of those relationships after 36 years of caring for the community of Weston County.

“There’s no doubt after that many years of taking care of folks that you get pretty attached,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter grew up in Rushville, Nebraska, as one of five kids in a family where his mom stayed home to care for the kids and his dad worked two jobs.

When his mom developed rheumatoid arthritis in her 40s, an inflammatory disease that affects the joints, she required more and more care and help as time went on, and Carpenter said all the kids pitched in to help with chores around the house.

“We grew up with a good work ethic,” he said.

Helping out with his mother and watching his dad care for her too was what really piqued Carpenter’s interest in the medical field.

“About the last five years, she got to the point where she was in a wheelchair, and so we got to watch my dad take care of her, and they both had a very, very big heart,” he said.

After Carpenter graduated from high school, he decided to be an orderly (nurse’s aide) at a nearby hospital. He worked in a hospital in Gordon, Nebraska, for two summers before applying for training as a registered nurse in Scottsbluff.

After going through a three-year RN program at a hospital in Scottsbluff, he went to work in a heart attack unit for four years before deciding to become a physician assistant.

He went to PA school in Omaha, Nebraska, at the University of Nebraska, and held a few different jobs after school, including practicing in Sydney, Nebraska, for a few years.

Carpenter then found his way to Newcastle. One of the instructors at his PA school used to practice in Newcastle, so that connection brought him here.

“I was raised out in the Sandhills, where ranchers are very independent. … That was probably one of the bigger attractions when I came out here is because I was raised with that kind of philosophy. And, so, it didn’t take me long to kind of get settled in taking care of ranchers,” Carpenter said.

After coming to Newcastle, he worked at the clinic and took shifts at the hospital too. However, Carpenter admitted that the hospital was not his favorite.

“I have a pretty soft heart, … especially when it comes to kids. … Working in the emergency room was pretty tough,” Carpenter said, noting that he was glad when the hospital started contracting with outside doctors for the emergency room.

Carpenter really enjoyed clinic work, he said, because he got to develop relationships with his patients over many years of caring for them.

“When you establish care with folks for decades …, you’re dedicated … you have a heart connection, which is a big deal,” Carpenter said, noting that the kids were always the favorite part of his job, and he just loved taking care of the little ones.”

The most important aspect of his job, Carpenter said, was probably the preventive aspect, trying to help his patients be their healthiest by preventive care and a healthy lifestyle.

Coworkers of Carpenter confirm his great care for his patients, and Dr. Lanny Reimer said that Carpenter has always been a great team player in his cooperative work with the physicians. Reimer said his medical care and ability to connect with patients was phenomenal.

“His ability to treat every patient like a friend was wonderful, and people enjoyed his sincerity and his humor,” Reimer said.

Dr. Mike Jording said that Carpenter’s commitment to the community was outstanding, and he always did a great job.

“Mike [Carpenter] is probably one of the most kindest, considerate providers that I’ve ever worked with,” said Lynnea Watt-Prell, the clinic office manager at the WCHS Newcastle Clinic.

Stephanie Martinez, another coworker, said that Carpenter was not only kind but had quite the sense of humor.

Dr. Chuck Franklin also mentioned his character and humor.

“He’s been a good friend. I know he loves kids, and he loves to tell jokes,” Franklin said.

While Carpenter will greatly miss his work caring for the people of Newcastle, he said that at 70, he’s ready to “kick back” a little and have time for other things he enjoys doing, like exploring the Black Hills. He also enjoys four-wheeling and taking pictures of the landscape, and said he’s excited to spend more time with grandkids and other family.

He also wants to spend more time with kids in general, and he has already talked to the Weston County Children’s Center about reading to the children there.

Carpenter wants the community to know that he is grateful for them and for being able to take care of them for all these years.

“They’re the reason I survived for 36 years,” Carpenter said, noting that he has had a very rewarding career.

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