By TYLER MASK
“... faith without works is dead,” James 2:26b (NET). Palo Pinto General Hospital Emergency Room Director James E. Fesser, RN, puts his faith to work everyday.
Growing up, Fesser was raised primarily by his single mother. His mother worked as a checker at Safe Way, back when Safe Ways were still in Texas. Fesser recalls that she worked very hard at what she did, nonetheless, they faced many hardships.
“Most of the time growing up, finances were very tight, and we lived very lean,” Fesser said. “Paycheck to paycheck. I remember, we were kind of the working poor. I grew up in Burleson. There was my mother, myself, and [my] little brother. We used food stamps [and] lived in government-assisted housing.
“She did the best she could and she worked hard, [but] I knew that working hard wasn’t going to be enough. I knew I had to make certain sacrifices to better myself. And the medical field at that time when I graduated in 1988, it seemed to be a safe haven economically. There was a nursing shortage at the time, but all things medical seemed to be a good direction to go.”
Fesser’s desire to better himself quickly became something bigger than he imagined. He began to see a lot of extreme poverty and need during his education and when he first became an Emergency Medical Technician.
“Either as a paramedic or an ER nurse, you start to see a lot of issues that any particular community faces,” Fesser said. “So that touched my heart.”
However, even this is not Fesser’s biggest motivator anymore.
“The biggest change in my life occurred as a result of finding God, Fesser said. “I believe that we’re called to be salt and light. And this profession allows me to do that every day. So there is my main motivation.”
As Fesser mentions, his very own family growing up was faced with great need. During this time, he attended church off and on and held a certain awareness of God, but this relationship was built on need Fesser said. It wasn’t until Fesser got married and began working as a paramedic that he encountered God on a new level.
“I was a young paramedic at the time – that was kind of a turning point in my life,” Fesser said. “Instead of coasting through life, I began to get some direction and was able to progressively begin to take God’s word and intertwine it into my life such that it affected my decision making [and] my career choices. So, that’s why I do what I do.”
And Fesser’s life change goes with him everywhere, even to work.
“I am a man of God and I don’t check my faith at the door when I clock in,” Fesser said.
Fesser attributes the way he sees his staff and patients to the way he believes God would see them, and he lets his faith play a role in the decisions he makes. Whether or not he faces times of joy or times of trial, Fesser believes it is important to bring light wherever he goes.
“God is in the business of redemption,” Fesser said. “And so when you see bad circumstances, or bad things, to whatever extent you can, I think we are obligated to try to be agents of redemption to improve that situation a little bit. This environment lends well to that.”
When Fesser began pursuing his career in the medical field, he first earned his EMT and paramedic education at Tarrant County College.
After receiving his education, he began working as a paramedic at MedStar in Fort Worth, then quickly moved to LifeCare in Weatherford where he served for more than 10 years before deciding to go back to school and become a nurse.
He received his nursing education from Weatherford College the first year WC started offering RN certifications, graduating from the program in 2002.
May 2002, Fesser signed on with PPGH’s Emergency Department as a staff nurse.
July 2008, Fesser became the ER director with unanimous support from the physicians, administration and staff nurses.
Since Fesser became ER director, major changes have taken place. From 2009 to 2013, ER monthly visits have gone from 1,554 per month to nearly 1800 a month, with some months breaking 2000. Admits have gone from 148 to 171, transfers from 37 to 51, and elopements from 83 to 19. While demands have gone up, service has gone up, which is revealed by the decline in elopements. Elopements are patients who check in and leave without being served, which is most often related to wait times, Fesser said.
But he will be the first to tell you that it’s not about him.
“That’s really not because I am a great manager, that is truly because we have a wonderful staff.”
Beyond his work at PPGH, Fesser is a father expecting his seventh child in the near future and a dedicated husband. He has served as Youth Minister and Associate Pastor of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship.
Currently, he serves on the boards of Addiction Recovery Ministries and Palo Pinto County Children’s Advocacy Center, is a member of Mineral Wells Rotary Club and Palo Pinto County Drug Endangered Children Coalition.