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Morgan Bretzke comes from a long line of helpers.

“My grandfather was a doctor and we have a lot of doctors in our family, so we kind of grew up helping people in that way,” Bretzke said.

An Arvada native who grew up in New Mexico, Bretzke moved to Colorado Springs two years ago after accepting a position with Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Colorado Springs. In September, she was promoted to her current position as a wound care coordinator.

Bretzke, 27, initially planned to pursue a career in athletic training. But she quickly realized that she craved a more personal connection with the people she was trying to heal.

“I wanted more patient care, if that makes sense — I want to build relationships with people instead of just fix them, and that screams nursing,” said Bretzke. “After graduation, I started with Encompass and found my passion and a niche that I really like.”

Bretzke holds two bachelor’s degrees, one in public health education from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and another in nursing from the Denver School of Nursing.

This week she talked with the Business Journal about her evolving leadership style, the nationwide challenges facing the health care industry, and why Colorado Springs is a great place to launch a career in nursing.

So was it that family connection that drew you to nursing?

Yeah, that was kind of what got my passion started with that — but helping people, I think, is something that is in all nurses’ hearts. We just kind of thrive on helping people. So there’s always that part. I really like the problem solving of [nursing], especially in rehab. We’re trying to help people get back to the best versions of themselves, and it gets pretty creative sometimes on how to let patients gain their independence again — just trying to use different modalities to regain their strength, trying to use different tools to have the patients be as independent as possible. Like, getting dressed is such a basic thing we all do, and we have a lot of patients that need sock adapters or just grabbing sticks or things like that, so they can do it themselves versus us coming into their home — when they go home — just to help them get dressed.

What are your responsibilities at Encompass?

I oversee all of the patients that come in. If they come in with different wounds, if they come in with bed sores — things like that — I’ll create a care plan and a plan of action so we can get patients out here out of here better than they showed up. As far as infection prevention goes, I oversee our day-to-day processing. … You know, this is a hospital. We have people come in here who are sick, and so we need to take care of those patients and make sure that germs don’t spread, and if we do have germs, how to contain them.

What drew you to this particular health care discipline?

Wound care is just fascinating to me. It has been fascinating since I was in nursing school. I think it’s really interesting that you can sometimes get these giant gnarly wounds and if you just treat them correctly … you can get them to heal — not quickly, but you can get them to heal and significantly improve the patient’s quality of life, long term. That’s huge. It’s just absolutely amazing what our body can heal.

What is something that you think people don’t usually know about your job?

It’s a lot more than just physical therapy and taking people to the bathroom. When people think of rehab, they first don’t think of physical rehab, and then when you kind of expand that, they just think of old folks that have fallen and broken their hip and need to get back to walking, and there’s so much more to that. There’s so many more patients than that, and I think people forget that a lot.

There’s a lot more than just re-learning how to walk. There’s re-learning how to dress yourself, how to talk, how to eat, how to act in public again if you had a brain injury — things like that.

Talk about some challenges facing your industry.

In health care, it’s a resource game, if you will. There’s a chronic shortage across America right now for nurses, and I think that that gets played out a lot and we’re just expected to deal with it and it can kind of run down people. I think that’s the biggest hurdle to jump through — that morale with being chronically understaffed, if you will. Actually, our facility does an amazing job of making sure that doesn’t happen, thank goodness, but I think that’s just widescale. A big, big problem is the resources, the staffing, the needs, the time.

Having said that, what would you tell a young professional who is considering a career in health care?

Go into it with an open mind, because you’ll find your way. It’s a different way for everyone, whether it’s staying on the floor for a year or two like me and moving up into different roles. It takes some time to be able to find your mission, to find an area that you really enjoy. There are so many areas and hospital systems in health care that if you strike out the first time, don’t give up. There’s always something else that you can go do, and as soon as you find that passion, you’re going to absolutely love coming to work every day — because I love coming to work.

You’re part of the latest Leadership Pikes Peak class. Why is it important for you to get involved in your community? 

I didn’t grow up in this region, so I’ve always wanted a way to get more involved, to understand what was going on around me, and not just be a person living in a city. I really want to be connected with that city, and so it just seemed like a perfect opportunity to combine all those things. … It’s always been important for me to be connected to the communities I live in. There’s something different, I think, then if you just live somewhere for a while and then you’re free to leave. I’m kind of putting my heart into the community. … If it feels more like home, I can grow and see myself growing in this area. … I love [Colorado Springs]. It’s beautiful. I lived in downtown Denver before that, and I’m very much an outdoorsy person, so this is a little bit better.

Can you describe your leadership style, since you’re now in more of a leadership role?

I’m honestly still trying to figure out what [it is]. It’s a fluid thing for me. I would like to be a resource for my team — more than the person on top giving the orders, if that makes sense. I really like to have conversations about wound care with my floor nurses — with the people that are treating [patients] like 90 percent of the day when I’m not there, and just make it more of a team situation than me on top and everyone else.