Bouldin takes on a new role

Longtime VNA employee will head CNCC nursing program

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— Marilyn Bouldin moved to Craig more than 30 years ago to pursue two passions -- skiing and nursing.

"I worked at the hospital at night and skied during the day," she said.

A typical day demands much more of Bouldin now. She still finds time for an occasional ski run or two, but her nursing obligations are a priority.

Her commitment to the field is being honored this week as she exits one phase of nursing and enters another.

Bouldin is leaving the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association after almost two decades with the organization.

Colorado Northwestern Community College hired her to head the school's new nursing program next fall.

It's a move Bouldin looks forward to with enthusiasm but does with a note of sadness.

"It's hard to leave anything you've invested so much time and energy in, but I'm confident that the VNA will carry on and continue on," she said.

Bouldin currently serves as the VNA's director of community care. She began as a part-time public health nurse 18 years ago and gradually assumed more supervisory roles.

The face of the organization has changed over time. Bouldin has witnessed many of those changes.

"Not only have we moved about five times, but we have grown and developed new programs as needs change in the community," she said. "The VNA has always evolved to meet those changes."

Bouldin's co-workers describe her as somewhat of a pioneer in the field of nursing in Northwest Colorado.

"She is an absolutely great lady," VNA Director Sue Birch said. "She is a legend."

Many people don't understand everything a public health nurse does, Birch said.

"They do so much more than just the general medical kind of nursing," she said.

Bouldin has done it all.

She's campaigned for safe water and safe food. She's led efforts for healthy beginnings for infants and independent living for the elderly.

Birch calls Bouldin the "cowgirl nurse" whose spunk and drive has ensured public safety issues are at the forefront of discussion.

She is taking that fervor with her as she gears up to head CNCC's new nursing program.

Bouldin sits on the advisory board that has explored the possibility of bringing the program to CNCC.

A trip to Vietnam last August to teach a nursing course re-sparked her interest in education.

"It just reminded me how much I do enjoy teaching," she said.

Her transition from public health nurse to educator is not such a big leap. So much of public health nursing is educating the public, she said.

The program should begin this fall.

Developing and getting the curriculum approved poses the biggest challenge, she said.

Interest in the program already reaches as far as Texas.

"The response has just been overwhelming," she said.

The program will serve a real need in Northwest Colorado, said Susan Bowler, VNA public health nurse manager.

Graduates may decide to stay and help alleviate some of the region's nursing shortages.

Bouldin was Bowler's mentor when she joined the VNA in 1993.

"She's been through a lot of changes," Bowler said. "The boat's rocked at times, and she's always been the stabilizing force."

Fortunately for the community, the veteran nurse is not leaving Craig to assume her newest role.

"It's not goodbye," Bowler said. "She's just switching hats."

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