Friday, June 30, 2017

Serving in Senegal fuels Bautista’s desire to reach underserved

by Derrick Vander Waal

SIOUX CENTER, IOWA – Raquel Bautista was invigorated with a passion for making health care accessible to all people during a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa.

She now is excited to help make that happen as a new dental assistant and interpreter at Promise Community Health Center in Sioux Center.

Raquel Bautista has assumed the role
of dental assistant and interpreter at
Promise Community Health Center in
Sioux Center. She brings a passion for
reaching out to underserved people.
“My interest in Promise was its commitment to serving community members who find it difficult to access health care that is affordable and that provides excellent care,” Bautista said. “There’s a tremendous amount of inclusion within Promise in which individuals, as well as entire families, are receiving the care they need and not being turned away for typical reasons that may exist elsewhere.”

Bautista grew up in Sheldon, graduating from Sheldon High School in 2005. She later went on to the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in art history in 2013. After serving in various jobs in the Iowa City area for a couple of years, she joined the Peace Corps in 2015 and served as a preventative community health education volunteer until April 2017 in Senegal.

For those two years, she worked to integrate and educate her host community and surrounding communities with healthy habits that aligned with the Senegalese government’s goals and addressed community priority issues, such as malnutrition that compromised maternal and child health, infectious diseases such as malaria and diarrhea, and lack to access to clean water and sanitation. Her major project was the completion of 31 latrines for the entire village.

In the process, Bautista also learned the local language, Pulaar.

“It was an environment unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and it’s really where my interest in health and dental care bagan. The lack of opportunity to seek treatment in Senegal is why accessibility is so important to me and why I chose Promise,” she said. “Patients should feel free to ask me about my experiences there. I love talking about Senegal. I consider it like another home, and it will continue to mean a lot to me for the remainder of my life.”

Bautista, who is fluent in Spanish in addition to English and Pulaar, also noted that she enjoyed visiting the dentist as a child and still does; therefore, she never understood the uneasiness that some people experience when they go to the dentist.

Now, she hopes to put people at ease in new role.

“As a dental assistant, it is my hope to shift a patient’s perspective of going to the dentist,” she said. “That starts by being an advocate for the patient as they sit in the dentist chair. That can also be a role played by parents for their young children by encouraging them to practice good dental care and bringing their kids to regular appointments so they hopefully grow up enjoying the dentist as much as I did – or at least making the idea of going to the dentist less terrifying.”

Promise Community Health Center of Sioux Center is the only Federally Qualified Health Center serving the far northwest corner of Iowa. Promise provides medical, prenatal, dental, vision and behavioral health services. To learn more, visit and watch this video. To read more Promise news, visit

Raquel Bautista lives in Orange City. In her free time, she loves trying new activities, meeting new and interesting people, reading books, vacationing by the ocean, traveling, staying current on social justice issues and doing outdoor activities. She also enjoys films, art and “healthy-ish” living.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Promise CHC expands again, fills out remaining portion of building

by Derrick Vander Waal

SIOUX CENTER, IOWA – Promise Community Health Center has gradually transformed the interior of its downtown Sioux Center building since opening in 2008.

Nine years later, the former bowling alley building now is full.

The health center recently completed a 2,200-square-foot interior expansion and remodeling project that filled the remaining vacant space in the west portion of the building. Schelling Construction of Sioux Center served as the general contractor.

A group of Sioux Center Middle School eighth-
graders use Promise Community Health Center's
new community education/conference room for a
presentation. The room was part of Promise's
recently-completed interior expansion project.
“The expansion and remodel of space at Promise says that we will continue to grow and change – always looking for ways that best meet the needs of those we seek to serve,” said Nancy Dykstra, executive director of Promise.

The interior expansion project includes a much larger community education/conference room, two patient rooms and two offices. The vision/eye care program will move into one of the exam rooms in the near future, and the second exam room will allow for future growth. The two new offices are occupied by the executive director and chief financial officer.

The project also involved the remodeling and reuse of existing spaces. The former conference room has been divided into four office cubicles – with two allocated to the family planning nurse educator and medical records specialist and two for future staff growth. The executive director’s former office has been converted into a small conference room. The other additional office has allowed the director of operations and clinic manager to have their own offices instead of sharing one. The relocation of vision/eye care will open up a needed exam room for the clinical staff. A workstation also was freed up for the new nurse health coach in the clinical setting – ensuring that she is accessible and available to the medical team and that the services are integrated.

Dr. Del Lassen talks to members of the Hull Kiwanis
Club in the new community education/conference
room of Promise Community Health Center.
Promise’s staff also had outgrown the former education/conference room, so the larger space will accommodate all-staff meetings and trainings. In addition, the larger meeting room – which is equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, cabinets and a large multimedia screen – will enable Promise to adequately host group education sessions for patients and community members, presentations and meetings by community groups, and board meetings.

“The expansion project will allow our new services to grow and current services to function more efficiently and effectively,” Dykstra said. “The expansion provides onsite opportunities for staff education, training and an enhanced work environment.”

Promise Community Health Center of Sioux Center is the only Federally Qualified Health Center serving the far northwest corner of Iowa. Promise provides medical, prenatal, dental, vision and behavioral health services. To learn more, visit and watch this video.

Here are the highlights of other building projects since Promise Community Health Center opened in 2008:

  • A dental wing expansion, including three exam rooms, was opened in January 2011.
  • Promise completed a 3,000-square-foot expansion that included a new prenatal wing, a conference room, behavioral health therapy room, four offices and a break room in the summer of 2015. The front reception area and other areas of the health center also were remodeled as part of that project.
  • Promise purchased the 15,168-square-foot building that it had leased since opening, including the portion occupied by Las Palmas Mexican Grocery Store, on Dec. 30, 2015.
  • Construction for a major exterior renovation project is expected to commence in July. All four sides of the building will be refaced, a new front entrance will be created and new awnings will be installed on the front and back of Promise’ building. A successful $250,000 capital campaign made that project possible.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Van Ruler eager to serve patients in new nurse health coach role

by Derrick Vander Waal

SIOUX CENTER, IOWA – Stephanie Van Ruler grew up in Sioux Center believing and dreaming that she had to go elsewhere to live out God’s plan for her life.

But now she realizes that was “a narrow perspective.” Sioux Center is her place to serve others.

Her life pathway now has led her to Promise Community Health Center, where she will serve in the newly created role of nurse health coach.

Stephanie Van Ruler has assumed the
new role of nurse health coach at
Promise Community Health Center
in Sioux Center. She is eager to
"serve, love and walk beside" people
to help them become healthier.

“Each point, each encounter and each decision I have made up to this point in my life was part of a greater plan that included Sioux Center and serving the diverse community of God’s children right here,” Van Ruler said. “I believe and daily strive to see each person as a unique and beautiful child of God who deserves respect, love and someone to believe in them.”

She thinks that is embodied in Promise’s mission statement: “Together we deliver the promise of a healthier community.”

“Health doesn’t begin at the doctor’s office or with the lab numbers you see. Health begins in your environment, in your home, in your work; it begins with you,” she said. “A healthier community encompasses all those living in our community. This is what drew me to Promise and the position of nurse health coach.”

In her role, Van Ruler will serve as a resource, care manager, advocate and teacher for individuals, providers, the school systems and the broader community. She will work one-on-one with individuals and their families both in the clinic setting and in their homes to evaluate health needs, environment and the barriers to better health. In doing so, she will help them establish a plan and guide them and their families along the way to achieve the plan. She also will work closely with local and state resources and agencies to ensure that each person receives the resources and support that they need.  

Van Ruler, who is fluent in English and conversational in Spanish, was drawn to this opportunity to “serve, love and walk beside” her neighbors right in her own community.

“Health is far more than a yearly doctor’s visit and lab work,” she said. “Health is about your environment, your family, what is important to you and what barriers may be preventing you from living the life that you desire. Those barriers can range from education deficits, work and home stress, financial constraints, to basic needs of safe housing, lack of food resources or language deficits.”

Van Ruler’s desire to become a nurse started while she was a student at Unity Christian High School in Orange City. She was fascinated by the human body and how it worked, and she loved people. It seemed like a perfect fit. So, she enrolled at Augustana University in Sioux Falls and then later Dordt College as a nursing student after graduating from high school in 2003.

However, as she started college, she started wrestling with and questioning the decision  – wondering whether she was choosing nursing because it felt safe and was what she wanted or because it was where God was guiding her.

To reflect more on her life calling, she took time off school and spent nearly six months living with a family in Honduras in 2004.

“The time I spent there helped me see that nursing and caring for others in some of the most vulnerable times of their lives was God’s call for me life,” she said.

Van Ruler earned her associate degree in nursing (RN) in 2007 from St. Luke’s College in Sioux City and her bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from Dordt College in 2008.

She then began serving at Sioux Center Health in June 2007 – both as a staff nurse and care coordinator. She served a variety of roles in the hospital setting, including medical and surgery, labor and delivery, postpartum and emergency department. She then served as a medical clinic nurse at Sioux Center Health for the past four years.

She’s now is eager to delve deeper into her new role at Promise.

“I am excited to work with people who have a desire and a passion to create a healthier community by serving and partnering with their patients,” Van Ruler said.

Promise Community Health Center of Sioux Center is the only Federally Qualified Health Center serving the far northwest corner of Iowa. Promise provides medical, prenatal, dental, vision and behavioral health services. To learn more, visit and watch this video.

Stephanie Van Ruler and her husband, Daniel, live in Sioux Center and have three children, Amayah, 5, Addisyn, 5, and Kadrian, 3. In her free time, she enjoys running, reading, scrapbooking and camping.