People might know Michelle Nelson, NP, as the lead nurse practitioner with the Surgeons Group of Baton Rouge at Our Lady of the Lake Health. Or they might know her as the person who helps train LSU medical students through Our Lady of the Lake’s Graduate Medical Education program.
Or they know her through her many roles in the community such as board memberships at Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the Louisiana Human Trafficking Prevention Commission and Advisory Board as well as Junior League of Baton Rouge and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
But to many of the people who look up to Michelle, she’s just “Mama Meesh.”
Michelle’s passion and affection for people is clear through even everyday interactions. Spend a few minutes with her walking through the lobby of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, and you’ll lose count of the number of people she greets by name or who stop to say hello.
“I believe in treating everyone as if they were a member of my family,” she says.
And for the Baton Rouge native and Southern University grad who has worked at Our Lady of the Lake since 1999, she’s seen those honorary family members grow from medical and nursing students to leaders in their medical fields.
Michelle acknowledges that she’s always enjoyed helping others achieve their success, often standing back and out of the limelight.
But that hasn’t stopped the team at the Surgeons Group of Baton Rouge and other leaders at Our Lady of the Lake from nominating her for accolades, including the Geaux Hero recognition for the Sept. 23 LSU game against Arkansas.
Personable and Patient-Focused Care
Her main role as lead nurse practitioner with the Surgeons Group sees her coordinating care for surgical patients — making sure they have what they need and that their care team does as well.
“I have always been a multitasker and always done a lot of different things,” she says.
Much of that work includes taking the time to sit with patients and truly listen to their needs.
“I always work from the standard of care that I’d want someone to show for my family,” Michelle says. “Some people might not have that same family connection at home. So, then you start discussing what resources are available for that patient and getting to know them more personally. When you understand what’s going on in their life, you are able to make better decisions for their care.”
When it comes to the medical students who pass through Our Lady of the Lake — who Michelle affectionately refers to as “our kids” — it’s of course a family dynamic as well.
She’s seen how difficult and challenging graduate medical education can be, and she does her part to help each medical student achieve their best and, in turn, share their gifts with patients.
“We’re not just coworkers, here. We’re family. And when you feel that way, you display that to your patients,” Michelle says.
Michelle has seen that same atmosphere evolve in the 24 years she’s been with Our Lady of the Lake. While she’s been amazed with the growth at the Lake, leading the way in robotic surgery and surgical patient care, she’s equally amazed by how close-knit it’s stayed.
“I know where we were and I’ve seen how far we’ve come, and I definitely think we’ve grown for the best and have become more involved in our community,” Michelle says.
A Focus on Her Community
When she’s not taking care of her “kids” at Our Lady of the Lake, Michelle is at home with her husband, Sean, and 10-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, who has taken a liking to art and music. Though Michelle is still making sure her daughter gets some early exposure to the medical field — Brooklyn recently got trained in CPR.
And if you can’t find Michelle at home, she’s probably at the golf course. She and several surgeons with the Surgeons Group of Baton Rouge regularly compete in golf tournaments in the Baton Rouge area, with a strong record of winning many of them, too.
But those golf tournaments aren’t just for fun — they are usually tied to community fundraisers. As always, everything Michelle does is focused on her community.
Michelle has been honored as one of Our Lady of the Lake’s Geaux Heroes, which recognizes patients with incredible stories of strength and resilience. She is being recognized on the field of Tiger Stadium during the LSU football game on Sept. 23.