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Kathleen Haycraft recognized for a lifetime of achievement

Kathleen Haycraft credits the success she has achieved during her nursing career to friends, church family, and God. Photo Mary Lou Montgomery


In May 2023, Kathleen Haycraft of Hannibal was one of two nurse practitioners presented with lifetime achievement awards by the National Society for Dermatology Nurse Practitioners.

Susan Tofte and Haycraft were recognized for their lifetime of leadership and dedication to patients.

“It was the inaugural award,” Haycraft said. “They selected me. To say I was surprised would be an understatement.” She is involved in the establishment of a post graduate dermatology program for nurse practitioners. She is a national speaker for a variety of organizations and is involved with many boards both nationally and state-wide.

Haycraft has ventured far from her humble beginnings.

Growing up, “We had a happy childhood until I was 6 or 7,” she said. Her parents divorced, and “my grandfather and step grandmother took us in to provide stability.

“My father died when I was 12. My mother remarried. She had seven children. We are all best friends, we don’t fight, and we support each other.”

Her mother, Beverly Rice, worked as an accounting clerk. “She was a very bright, beautiful woman and the best mom on the planet. She recently died, lived to 96.”

In retrospect, Haycraft added, if she follows her mother’s example, “I probably have many years left.”

Career path

To say that Haycraft’s path to a career in nursing was out of the ordinary might be a minimization.

“When I was in high school, I was a young mother, married, and my husband went off to Viet Nam. Gene Hall offered to let me stay in school,” she said, but she instead opted to take the GED exam to earn a diploma.

“My sister Cheryl, her husband went into military, too.” She lived with her sister and had a great time. “My new son Shannon was our entertainment.” This was a joyful time even though both women were worried they could lose their husbands to the war.

“People have always been there for me,” Haycraft said. “Helen and Bob Moore were my sister’s parents in law. “They loved me and were wonderful mentors for life. They totally accepted me. That helped me become who I am. I had so many people around me, they made me feel so wonderful.

“I had a nice crib (for Shannon), but Helen wanted me to have a nicer one. They bought me a beautiful rocking chair. So many people loved on me.

“Harold came back, and I loved being a wife and parent. But I missed mental engagement. I thought I would go to LPN school to help people. Kay James, from Rensselaer, took my entrance test, and she called Blessing and helped me get a scholarship from the National Institute for Health. I went to Blessing on a scholarship; in three years I become an RN. She did so much to make sure I got into Blessing.”

That schooling “was the hardest thing I’d ever done, but I graduated, and I was happy.”

She worked for both Hannibal hospitals and earned a BSN degree from Hannibal-LaGrange College.

When the Hannibal hospitals merged, she went to work for St. Mary’s Hospital in Quincy, “I flourished there. I decided that health care was going in a direction that wasn’t patient centered, so I decided to get a degree in administration. I was going to change the world and fix health care.

“The administration at St. Mary’s was Christian based; the chaplains went in and prayed with patients. We’d hold hands with the patients.

“A little boy was in a vegetative state. They took him off the ventilator and (another) little boy said, ‘bye bye Jo Jo, I’ll see you in heaven.’ I bawled and bawled. It was a very powerful moment.”

St. Mary’s was to merge with Blessing. The merger fell through.

She had already been through the merger of Hannibal hospitals and didn’t want to go through another merger.

“I had Dr. (Michael) Bukstein telling me that I should be nurse practitioner. I entered the first post graduate nurse practitioner program at Columbia. I was fortunate to do my rotations with Dr. (James) Mann, Dr. (Richard) Ha and Martha Gilbert. These people mentored me and built me up.”

Haycraft earned her master’s degree at the age of 40, on her birthday.

Dr. Jon Onik reached out to interview her as a nurse practitioner in Pike County. She went for the interview, with no intention of accepting the job. She realized this was a unique practice, that they believed in a compassionate model and allowed prayer. I accepted the position. “These guys were different, they believed in the model of care that I believed in, totally compassionate. I could pray with people if I wanted to.” She took the position, and it became her favorite. “I felt good every night, like I changed the world.”

“I am still good friends with the Pike County physicians: Dr. Phillip W. Pitney, Dr. Glenn and Dr. Jan Onik. I learned a ton from them, and they learned from me. We had a marvelous natural collaborative relationship. We’re all still friends.”

When Dr. Linda Cooke opened a dermatology practice in Hannibal, Haycraft viewed that as a dream job. She left the Pike County practice and went to work in Hannibal.

“More money, it was in town, and it led to this dermatology job that has gone national. I was getting older, and my mother was getting sick; it was time to leave (Riverside). “Mother never wanted to go to a nursing home, so (my sisters and I) took care of her at home. Wonderful experience.”

Further education

While working for Dr. Cooke, she pursued her doctorate degree, which she completed in December 2011, at the age of 60, (on her birthday again).

During that same time, “I became very aware of people calling themselves dermatology nurse practitioners, who haven’t passed an exam.” This led to Haycraft’s involvement in a post-graduate dermatology program based at Regis College.

“I do research, I do education, health policy and the program for post-graduate dermatologist nurse practitioners. I have colleagues, we developed that. I’m on the faculty to teach people to pass certification exams. It’s a professional group. It is important to have accountability.”

She is faculty for Maui Derm, which hosts dermatology conferences for medical professionals, worldwide. She teaches health policy at UMKC. Her latest adventure is with Dr. George Martin (Maui Derm) with an innovative program “Scholars in Medicine”. Life never ceases giving her new opportunities.

Haycraft credits her family, friends, church family, and God for her opportunities.

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