Jerome Bethea is a one-of-a-kind healthcare practitioner. That’s because he is the only African American male licensed practical nurse (LPN) working at Milwaukee Health Services, Inc. (MHSI).
Milwaukee Health Services, Inc., is a federally qualified Community Health Center that operates two sites – one in the Harambee neighborhood on King Drive, and one on West Silver Spring Drive on the far northwest side. The clinics serve patients from all over Milwaukee County and seek to provide high quality primary medical care regardless of the client’s income, ability to pay, or insurance status.
As an LPN, Jerome is usually one of the first healthcare providers patients meet when they visit the clinic. He measures and records vital signs, such as blood pressure, height, weight and temperature; reviews the patient’s symptoms and medications; tries to put the patient at ease; and prepares them for their visit with a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner.
Jerome clearly has a passion for his career and has been a part of the MHSI team for 17 years. He says, “I enjoy serving the underserved. Although challenging at times, it’s what I love and why I have stayed with it so long.” Jerome’s colleague, MHSI corporate communications specialist Pamela Clark, considers him a genuine asset to the organization stating, “Jerome takes it upon himself to provide quality access and caring customer service for MHSI patients. His presence provides a positive image as he continues to invest selflessly in the community.”
Born and raised on Chicago’s West Side, Jerome attended Chicago public schools, graduating from the city’s John Marshall High School in 1969. He moved from Chicago to Indianapolis and raised a family of five children. He discovered nursing as a career path while serving in the U. S. Army. In 1974, he did well on a battery of tests and began training for field medic placement. Doing very well at that, he chose to study surgical technology training next. He followed up by selecting respiratory therapy training and, finally, the Army chose him for Army Nurse Corps training. Jerome advanced to corporal then to sergeant and finally to staff sergeant E6, before receiving an honorable discharge to pursue his civilian career.
With extensive medical background, he moved to Vincennes, IN and attended Vincennes University, earning an associate degree in nursing in 1983. Jerome then served in the 337 General Hospital Army Reserves from 1983 to 1987 as a surgical technician based at Ft Hood, TX.
He eventually came to Milwaukee in 1994 seeking employment and worked at St Mary’s Hospital for three years as a respiratory therapist. A colleague there told him about MHSI and he joined the staff in 1997.
During the last twenty years in his spare time, Jerome has been a volunteer with an inner city youth group at Carver Park during the summer. He acts as a much-needed mentor and father figure for many young boys. His time spent this way assist in providing direction as to how to become responsible young men. He also helps with school problems and homework by helping the boys develop study skills. The youth get to go camping, learn social skills through sports activities, and other needed intervention. For years, Jerome has also been a career mentor and role model at North Division High School, exposing male and female students there to the opportunities and benefits of a career in nursing.
His close association with his godmother, Leeann Gant, who lived in Milwaukee before passing, provided Jerome with inspiration. He remembers her fondly. “She was my prayer warrior. She kept me straight so that I could keep the boys that I work with straight. She treated me just like I was her own son.”
Jerome has five adult children and a host of grandchildren. He works at MHSI three days a week in the Family Practice department during the day and in Urgent Care during the evening. Two days a week, he takes care of his five-year-old great-grandson, Jahari. Jerome attends Greater Mt Sinai Church of God in Christ.