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Chelsea Kullen: Called to nursing by her faith and care for others

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Chelsea Kullen

Chelsea Kullen

Third in a series on the Cedar Valley’s Top Nurses.

CEDAR FALLS — A deep, abiding faith brought Chelsea Kullen to the nursing profession. That faith guides her care and compassion for Bickford Cottage residents and their families, she said.

“I’ve always felt like that was the calling that the Lord put in my heart. The Lord has blessed me, given me the gifts of wanting to care for people and be with them in the joyous moments and walk beside them in the hard times as well.”

Kullen, 26, is the registered nurse coordinator for Bickford Cottage, an assisted living facility. She previously was a nurse in the cardiac unit at UnityPoint-Health Allen Hospital in Waterloo for 2 1/2 years. She graduated from Allen College in 2016 with a bachelor’s of science in nursing.

Kullen was surprised to learn she had been named a 2022 Cedar Valley Top Nurse, and is quick to credit family and current and former colleagues for her success.

“My family and friends have been such a huge support system. My husband — we’re high school sweethearts — has been by my side through it all. Through the demands of nursing, he stuck right along with me and pushed me. On the days I wanted to throw in the towel, he was there.”

She also gives credit to her former co-workers at Allen. “Everyone deserves credit for the journey I’ve been on so far. They all taught me something along the way.”

At Bickford, Kullen coordinates care for its residents and makes sure families are included in those plans. She handles care plans, resident assessments, medication management and doctor referrals.

Kullen worked as a certified nursing assistant at Bickford during nursing school, and welcomed the chance to return to help care for its elderly residents, many of whom have dementia.

“They just have taught me so much. I really love hearing their stories and life lessons. Me being pregnant right now, they care so genuinely for me. Their wisdom helps me in my day to day, and it’s a blessing to be able to walk through their lives with them,” she explained.

Ashlyn Jungwirth, who nominated Kullen for a Top Nurse award, said she is regarded in the Bickford community by “co-workers, employees, colleagues and patient’s families and friends to give 100% of her heart to properly care for her patients. She is known to create strong relationships with her patients and their loved ones which allows Chelsea to understand her patient’s entire health and well-being on a deeper level. She treats each patient as if it were her own family member — with love and immense decency for who God created them to be.”

Kullen said good relationships with residents’ families are critical for good care.

“For a lot of them, it’s their parents here we’re caring for,” she explained. “They know them the best and they are trusting us to take over their care. We tell them, ‘This is your time to be the son or the daughter and let us carry the care of the dementia.’ We like to take that off their shoulders. They’re trusting us to be the sole caregiver for someone who is near and dear to them, and we’re deeply committed to doing that.”

That was especially important when COVID-19 hit the Cedar Valley in 2020. Kullen rejoined Bickford in March that year, right as the pandemic swept in.

“We were trying to figure it all out when none of us knew how anything worked,” she said. “It was just jumping all in and knowing when their family members couldn’t be here, we could. I had to trust and put it in the Lord’s hands.”

Jungwirth said Kullen jumped in with both feet and led the team through it, and continues to demonstrate compassionate leadership and gratitude on a daily basis.

“Chelsea has worked tirelessly to ensure Bickford of Cedar Falls is appropriately set up each day to successfully care for the residents mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so each family can continue to trust Bickford to care for their loved ones while they at times could not have physical contact with their elderly loved ones,” she said.

Kullen and her husband, Sam, have a 2-year-old daughter, Riley. At the time of this writing, the couple also were expecting a baby boy, due May 5. They have a chocolate Labrador retriever, Yadi, and are big fans of the St. Louis Cardinals. They enjoy spending time with family and friends and being outdoors, and are volunteers at their church, Sent Church in Cedar Falls.

“While her hands are full outside of work with family, friends and community involvement, her patients and employees know she will be there at the drop of a hat to help them in any way they need,” Jungwirth emphasized.

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