A routine newspaper assignment 30 years ago changed reporter Jennifer Ebert’s life.
Covering a story on Self Regional Medical Center’s newest laser surgery in late 1990, Ebert had prepared to take notes and return to the newsroom to complete the assignment – but what she did not anticipate was the profound impact that the surgery would have on her.
“I didn’t want to go back to work,” she said. “Watching the surgery, seeing the doctors and nurses at work struck a deep chord in me. I didn’t know what I had been missing.”
The Dec. 19, 1990, newspaper clip from that life-altering day included a first-person story in which Ebert wrote, “I didn’t let my fear of needles or distaste for the sight of blood slow me down … I found myself seriously hoping the doctors wouldn’t end up with a second patient.”
Ebert, who donned a dusty pink shirt, pants, mask, cap and shoe covers for the assignment, didn’t faint but instead discovered a desire to switch professional gears. By August 1992, she had swapped her reporter’s notebook for college textbooks as a newly minted student in Lander University’s B.S.N. nursing program – and prepared to wear scrubs as a future nurse.
After graduating from Lander, she juggled her professional life with education, earning a master’s degree in nursing in 2006 from the University of Phoenix, and her Family Nurse Practitioner certification in 2008 from Graceland University.
Each career post and educational accomplishment enhanced her life as a nurse, a person sometimes described as “strong enough to tolerate everything and soft enough to understand everyone.”
The same could be said for the soft-spoken Ebert who refused to let the COVID-19 pandemic, which sent people into quarantine and shuttered businesses, derail her dreams of opening her own nurse practitioner-led clinic, PalmettoMEDCare, in Greenwood – one of only about 25 such practices in South Carolina.
As a nurse practitioner, Ebert can diagnose illnesses, treat conditions and provide health education to patients.
Chiropractor Dr. Dan Worley. of Ouzts-Tinney Chiropractic & Spinal Rehabilitation of Greenwood, is Ebert’s partner and mentor; and Dr. William Scott III is the PalmettoMEDCare collaborative physician. Each encouraged her to move ahead with her plans when COVID-19 changed the world.
“We can’t help the pandemic,” Ebert said. “People need healthcare. They need medications. It never occurred to me not to open the practice. This is where I am supposed to be.”
PalmettoMEDCare, located at 463 Calhoun Ave., offers primary care visits, general health exams, pre-employment physicals, mental wellness visits and lab services, as well as non-narcotic pain management.
“Too many people suffer from debilitating pain. We offer pain relief without the side effects of narcotics and focus on helping people resume the normal activities of their lives – from cutting grass to enjoying time and activities with their families,” she said.
“We provide a holistic approach to healthcare,” Ebert said. “Not only do we want to improve a patient’s health and wellness, we want people to be in the driver’s seat for their own health. We want them to understand the importance of good lifestyle choices. As a small practice, I can give patients the time and information they need so that they can make informed decisions.”
Ebert brings an extensive background of patient care to PalmettoMEDCare. She worked at Self Regional in the Women’s Center and in employee health. It was while working with patients in Self’s medical-surgical unit, however, that she realized the extended care that many patients needed after being discharged from the hospital. “It became my dream to have a practice like this,” she said.
She credits her Lander education with giving her the foundation for her career and the confidence that she could succeed. “I can’t say enough good things about Lander’s nursing program,” she said. “The faculty prepared me well. When I began my master’s degree program, I was fully prepared. I knew that I could do the hard work that was required because I had a strong foundation.”
Outside the office, Ebert is the mother of four daughters and wife of psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Ebert, of Greenwood. The couple enjoy traveling South Carolina’s back roads, where the nurse puts her photography interest to use by taking pictures of the Palmetto State’s scenic areas. Some of her photos are on the walls of her practice. She’s also turned to her Southern roots for another hobby – learning the art of smoking barbecue.
Ebert has written her own story since the “No knives, just needles with laser surgery” article appeared. She wrote then, “There I was – watching a medical procedure and maintaining an upright position. Boy, I was proud of myself.”
Thousands of patients later and years of remaining “upright,” Ebert admitted she occasionally misses her newspaper days. “But I still write. In fact, I write every day. I write about health, and sometimes a poem will eek itself out,” she said.