It was a dog tag, held in the hands of a young man who years before had been a patient at the Psychiatric Residential Treatment Center in Salina, Kansas.
But the simple treasure that he wore around his neck reminded Irene Werth, who has worked at Saint Francis Ministries for 31 years, why she shows up every day to work with young people.
“One of my old clients came in, and I hadn’t seen him for years,” Irene said. “He had been in Salina West PRTF, and I also saw him in outpatient. He had such high anxiety about everything. His anxiety was so high he couldn’t even go to school. Finally, after years, I was able to find the right combination of meds. His mom was so excited. She said, ‘Can you believe he even went to the state fair on his own?’
“The client showed me that he had a dog tag that he had made and had engraved on it who helped him succeed. One of the names on the dog tag was Saint Francis.
Irene Werth, Psych, APRN, B.C., has worked at Saint Francis Ministries 31 years this month. She joined the organization in 1989 as a director of nursing, and then she returned to school to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner.
Her role working with young people and helping to manage their medications and determine what would be most helpful to them has changed much over the years. But it has always, always been fulfilling.
Irene Werth started at Saint Francis Ministries in 1989.
“I loved being able to see kids change. When you work in the hospital or a nursing home or any of those places, you don’t get to see the mental change as well,” she said. “With these kids, it was so good to see how the day-by-day, weight on their shoulders were getting less, and they smiled more. They were able to talk about things in therapy and get on the right medications. When they left, they would be happy – it was rewarding to see that change. Every little thing, every little bit of attention you gave them, the clients seemed to appreciate.
“I was raised by parents who gave me a good religious background and happy childhood. When I first started to work in Ellsworth, I would come home and cry because I felt guilty hearing their stories and myself having such a good life growing up.”
What keeps her strong when those stories are difficult?