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Wright State nursing alumna Erin Mustard on the front lines of fighting spread of coronavirus

Erin Mustard, who earned bachelor’s degrees in nursing and Spanish from Wright State, is doing contact tracing of COVID-19 patients for the Clinton County Health District.

Her regular job with the Clinton County Health District is running a program that promotes positive parent-child relationships for pregnant women and new parents.

But Wright State University nursing alumna Erin Mustard has also become a bit of a warrior, finding herself on the front lines of fighting the spread of coronavirus.

With the economy in Ohio reopening, new focus is being placed on contact tracing, the public health method that tracks people who have come into contact with those who have contracted COVID-19. Much of Mustard’s time is now spent doing exactly that.

Once the southwestern Ohio health district is notified by a testing lab that a Clinton County resident has a confirmed case of COVID-19, the district makes contact with that person.

“The confirmed person is assigned to a staff member, who instructs them to isolate,” said Mustard. “As a public health nurse, it’s also my job to educate and monitor the confirmed patient and any close contacts who may also be at risk of developing COVID-19 and if possible identify where the individual was exposed to the virus.”

Mustard is flourishing in a career not far from where she grew up, in the nearby village of Leesburg. Mustard’s mother is a sales consultant for Midmark Corp., which makes medical, dental and veterinary products. Her stepfather is a senior application specialist at Standard Aero, which specializes in maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft.

After graduating from Fairfield Local Schools in 2005, Mustard enrolled at Wright State and majored in Spanish.

“When I initially visited Wright State, it just felt right,” she said. “I felt like Wright State was a happy medium — not too big that I felt like just a number, but still a diverse population with a wide variety of activities offered.”

Mustard lived in the Honors community and became involved in campus activities.

“Wright State had so many opportunities that were not available to me at my small local high school,” she said. “I had the chance to travel to Costa Rica, Mexico and Chile through Wright State. My coursework and travel with my Spanish degree helped my cultural awareness of working with diverse populations.”

After graduating in 2010 with her bachelor’s degree in Spanish, Mustard thought about either teaching in high school, pursuing her master’s degree in education or joining the Peace Corps. But in the meantime, to pay the bills, she earned her state nursing assistant license.

“I worked in a few nursing homes and decided to go back for my nursing degree because I truly enjoyed making a difference in the daily life of others and being in the medical field,” she said. “I have always had a vested interest in serving the patient population close to home.”

When it came to deciding on a nursing program, Mustard was already “super comfortable” with Wright State.

“Wright State’s College of Nursing is one of the best nursing programs in Ohio and has an impressive NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) pass rate,” she said. “It was a no-brainer for me.”

Mustard graduated in 2014 with her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Wright State’s Adena cohort at the PACCAR Medical Education Center in Chillicothe. She worked at Fayette Memorial Hospital on the Medical Surgical Unit and in 2016 was hired by the Clinton County Health District.

The district’s two Help Me Grow programs, Early Intervention and Home Visiting, provide support to children under the age of 3. Early Intervention serves families with children who have developmental delays and disabilities. Home Visiting promotes positive parent-child relationships for pregnant women and new parents.

Mustard is supervisor of the Home Visiting program and also makes home visits herself.

“I’m responsible for supervising other home visitors on a weekly basis, as well as maintaining a caseload of families my own,” she said. “I provide weekly reflective supervision to staff, review and update our program’s procedures, and ensure that our program is providing quality services.”

The home visitors do child screenings to check for any developmental delays, educate parents on typical development and work on improving their parenting skills.

“When I started this job, I was surprised at how many parents don’t know how to play with their babies or why it is so important for a child’s development,” she said.

In 2018, the program was accredited by Healthy Families America, which ensures that it provides high-quality services to families who want to improve their child’s health, nutrition and developmental outcomes.

“The most gratifying thing about home visiting is all of the families that I’ve had the chance to work with and being able to share the things I’ve learned about development,” she said. “I’m a better parent to my own children because of the work I do.”

Mustard also helps with immunization clinics, infectious disease reporting, CPR classes, prescription assistance, blood pressure clinics, and hearing and vision screenings. She also fills in as a school nurse from time to time.

Mustard said Wright State’s College of Nursing and Health prepared her to be successful on the front lines.

“Preparedness is key when it comes to nursing. Maintaining my nursing skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills and maintaining my all-around people skills are just a few beneficial qualities that Wright State helped me build upon during my time there as a nursing student,” she said. “I was prepared to enter the workforce post-nursing graduation, take my nursing boards and enter the front lines as a new graduate nurse and now a front-line caregiver fighting a global pandemic. I was prepared.”

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