When St. Luke Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Jeremy Ensey slipped into the chair behind his desk on the first day of his job Oct. 10, it’s understandable if the sense of coming full-circle hit him not once, but twice.
“He was born here at St. Luke,” said retired Marion doctor T.C. Ensey, Jeremy’s grandfather. “His mother, I delivered her and her two sisters, and I delivered three of my grandsons she produced.”
The doctor smiled.
“She had four sons and I delivered three of them. The fourth is still mad at me because I retired,” T.C. laughed.
Jeremy said he knows he has some big shoes to fill left empty by the doctor who served the community for 34 years, five of those as the town’s only physician.
“I feel it,” Jeremy said. “For example, we were down at the pharmacy today having coffee, and (St. Luke CEO) Jeremy Armstrong was introducing me. There were several people there who knew I was Doc Ensey’s grandson, and that’s how I get referred to a few times.”
There wasn’t a history of Enseys in health care when an older brother pitched the idea of becoming a doctor to school boy T.C.
“My father was a minister, and his father was a farmer. My oldest brother had ambition, but never did make it,” T.C. said. “When I was in the fourth grade he talked to me about being a doctor, and he was a good salesman. I bought it.”
T.C. tackled his new vocational aspirations with surprising zeal.
“Every animal I could find was in danger,” T.C. said, “because I killed a whole bunch of them, dissected and identified their organs. I got a BB gun and I shot birds and dissected them. I’d take them into my mother, on a shingle, and she’d chase me out of the house.”
T.C.’s interest didn’t wane when he went to high school.
“In high school you had to write book reports, and I wouldn’t write a report on any book other than one that was about a doctor,” he said.
T.C. pursued medical education in earnest when he entered the military during World War II.
“I went to medical school in Houston. The war was over in 1945, and I had a year to go, so I got on the GI bill and completed that. I interned at Wesley hospital in Wichita, and then I came here to practice,” he said.
The lab tech
T.C. and his wife, Lila, have three sons — Lowell, Larry, and Dean. T.C. said Lowell and Dean never had an interest in a health care career.
“They saw how many times I had to get up at night and they said they didn’t want to do that,” T.C. said.
But Larry, Jeremy’s father, did have an inclination toward working in the medical field. His commitment was tested when he was a student at Emporia State University, known then as Kansas State Teachers College.
“He had to take chemistry,” T.C. said. “He came home every night from college and I tutored him through chemistry.”
Instead of providing patient care, Larry became a medical laboratory technician, but he shared one thing in common with his father.
“He went to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita,” T.C. said. “He was there 43 years, and he became in charge of the whole department. He was always good at managing people.”
His father and grandfather weren’t the only health care influences Jeremy had while growing up. His mother, Melanie Hett Ensey, was a registered nurse.
“I grew up around health care,” Jeremy said. “I’d go up to see Dad at the hospital. I’d come up here to Marion and we’d stay on Elm Street with Grandpa. I went up to St. Luke at the time and remember seeing him there.”
Jeremy didn’t have a career path in mind his first two years in college.
“I really didn’t know I was going into nursing until my junior year of college,” Jeremy said.
“I spent two years at Tabor College. I played soccer two years at Tabor. I was looking at biology, looking at chemistry, and kind of decided on nursing,” he said. “There was a lot of opportunity for guys in nursing. I took the management route.”
Jeremy transferred to Wichita State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and later pursued the management angle at Friends University.
“Three years ago I completed my master’s in business, my MBA, at Friends,” he said.
Jeremy has 18 years of clinical experience, with eight of those being in nurse leadership positions. He worked at Galichia Heart Hospital in Wichita before coming to St. Luke.
T.C. and Jeremy share the belief that nurses are important partners in providing quality health care.
“They kept me out of trouble — it’s the truth,” T.C. said. “I appreciated what they were doing for me. I’d have coffee with them every day. I had a real nice relationship with them,” he said.
Jeremy said he is impressed with the professional relationships he has seen at St. Luke.
“What I’ve seen so far is a good relationship between the nurses, the physicians, and the practitioners. They’re able to talk with each other openly, freely, and that’s what you want to see,” Jeremy said.
Nurses in smaller hospitals like St. Luke need expertise in many areas.
“The nurses at these smaller hospitals have to have more education,” Jeremy said. “They have to go to a lot more classes because they have to be prepared for the emergency room patient, they have to be prepared for trauma, they have to be prepared for kids coming in. The nurses really have to be on top of their game.”
Jeremy said he and his wife, Tammy, and their children — Peyton, 10, Paige, 6, and Abree, 3 — are looking forward to moving to Marion soon.
“They’re all excited to get up here. It was a family decision,” Jeremy said. “It’s nice to already know several of the people in the community, I have family here, and I have people who support me already on the move.”