With no legislative experience, Danielle Pendergrass was instrumental in reforming Utah’s healthcare policies. Her message to fellow nurses? “You Really Hold So Much Power Because You are Holding People’s Hands”
In a 2020 interview with National Public Radio’s Audie Cornish, nurse practitioner Danielle Pendergrass DNP, APRN said she heard from patients at her women’s clinic, Eastern Utah Women’s Health in Price, Utah, who told her, “You're giving us COVID with the vaccine. They're putting something in this. This is from the government. We don't want that.” Describing herself as “More concerned as opposed to hopeful,” Pendergrass was concerned that in a community that prides itself in caring for each other, people would not do the simplest things as wearing a mask, social distancing. And I feel oftentimes rural is left out of the conversations.”
In a town with 8,000 residents and a county with just six ICU beds, the conversation was critical. Using telehealth, Pendergrass was able to provide care to women up to 300 miles from her clinic. Recognized by Johnson and Johnson among “Meet 15 Nurses who Disrupted Healthcare through the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Pendergrass was pivotal in changing Utah’s Medicaid policy to allow nurse practitioners to be reimbursed at 100% the physician’s rate. She joins Assistant Professor Lawana Brown, director of Regis College’s women’s health program, for a conversation about healthcare disparities, mask mandates, and the challenges to providing healthcare in a rural area with one of the highest poverty and substance use disorders rates in the state.