SCANDIA — Even in her days at Scandia Elementary, Forest Lake Area High School grad Audrey Mills knew she wanted a career in healthcare.
It wasn’t until her junior year at St. Paul’s Macalester College she realized that didn’t mean becoming a doctor. A presentation at the liberal arts college changed Mills’ thinking.
Earlier this summer she participated in a month-long practicum in nursing in the Australian Outback, helping deliver babies and attending to medical needs of women and children.
The practice of medicine in Australia is much more relaxed, Mills said, with much less data collection going on between patients and providers. She said the women she's met have been especially strong.
“The Australian system is much more ‘live and let live,’” she said. “People (there) really take charge of their life and their health. Maintaining and improving their state doesn't simply fall on a medication — people are willing to change their way of living.”
She said the opportunity to compare the two countries' healthcare system has been invaluable.
“(It's) allowed me to check and rethink the way I care for people,” she noted. “It's also allowed me the opportunity to see just how blessed we are to live in the United States. Our medical system, while flawed, is second to none and provides levels of care that isn't seen in other developed countries. This is especially true in our ability to provide culturally competent, efficient, high-level care.”
Back at FLAHS, Mills participated on the basketball and soccer teams and was a high jumper on the track team. She received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Macalester in 2012, played basketball there for two years and was a track team high jumper for four. From there, she moved east, to Johns Hopkins University, earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing and R.N. certification.
This fall she'll pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree with an emphasis in midwifery at the University of Maryland.
With a doctorate-level degree in hand, Mills hopes to be a strong advocate for women and-bring nursing into further prominence in the U.S. health care system.
“Nurses around the world are managing the everyday care for patients, and see them at their best and worst,” she said. “It’s time for nursing as a worldwide profession to step into the forefront and use our nursing specific skills to help people improve lives. Working as part of an interdisciplinary team is something fairly new to the U.S, not yet seen in Australia. We need to take advantage of that and make the voice of nurses heard in the care plan.”
She credited her upbringing in Scandia for giving her the desire to serve others.
“I really love my community,” she said. “Big things come from small towns.”