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From Nurse to Family Nurse Practitioner: Cari’s Journey in Medicine

Mar 18 2022

As part of our celebration of National Doctors’ Day coming up next week, Mercy Health is proud to recognize the talented, dedicated physicians who care for us. Our ministry also wants to express appreciation for advanced practice clinicians, who partner with physicians in a team-based approach to providing the best possible care to the people in our communities.

“I always wanted to do more,” Cari Wildharber, APRN, a family nurse practitioner with Mercy Health – Reidland Family Medicine, says. “Even in high school, I put down that I wanted to be a physician. I knew that being a higher-level care provider would be what I wanted to do. However, with family and children, it just took me a little while to get there.”

Cari became a nurse in 1991, working in an emergency room in Nashville, Tenn. for 14 years before joining our ministry in 2005. At Mercy Health, she began working with her mentor, the beloved Lisa Chaney Lasher, MD, OB/GYN, who passed away at age 51 in 2018.

“God had a reason for me being with Dr. Lasher,” Cari says. “I learned a lot about women’s health from working with Dr. Lasher. She was unselfish and always worried about other people. She told me for several years that I could be doing more. I can honestly say she was the perfect mentor.”

Cari fulfilled her earlier dream and Dr. Lasher’s wish for her when she became a nurse practitioner in 2012.

“Caring for patients as well as their mental and physical needs and then seeing the outcomes is the most rewarding aspect of the job,” Cari shares. “One of the best things is Mercy Health is a Christian atmosphere and I can share my religion. If someone asks me to pray with them, I can.”

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes to her profession.

“Medicine is usually scientific. Everything is based on science, and this was so different. When the pandemic started, there was nothing to base treatment plans on,” Cari explains. “We rolled with the punches and were flexible, recognizing that not everyone fits in the box. We had to change how we treat a patient to see what was going on, since no two patients had the same symptoms. It’s definitely taken a toll on everyone mentally and physically. The severity of the pandemic has burned a lot of people out.”

Despite the added pressure the pandemic placed on caregivers, Cari says her colleagues have been caring, empathetic and professional. These are words that can describe Cari herself, as she found a way to do more to help patients at risk from developing serious COVID-19 symptoms.

“I learned about people needing monoclonal antibodies, but there were not enough employees available to give them,” Cari recalls. “So, I reached out and said I would be glad to come do that.”

She volunteered her time on weekends and days off to administer monoclonal antibodies and give IVs until the staffing crunch eased. As a bonus, her volunteer work helped her forge a great friendship with Amy Anderson, an infusion nurse.

When Cari thinks of Doctor’s Day, she thinks of “a celebration of how far we’ve come as providers who keep striving to be better each day. I’m proud of the advances we’ve made in care and the evolution of caring for people. The things we do make a difference in longevity and helping people live.”

And when asked what she’d be doing if she weren’t a nurse practitioner, Cari laughs and says, “depends on if I was a millionaire or not. Honestly, though, I’ve felt this calling for a long time. I would be caring for somebody. I’m blessed.”

Help us celebrate National Doctors’ Day by sharing a heartfelt message of appreciation for your Mercy Health provider! Please visit mercy.com/doctorsday before March 30 to submit your message of thanks.

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