February 16, 2012 | Vol. 42 No. 7

New public health nurse familiar to Southeast area

Tari “Ty” Esposito said when she arrived in Haines as the acting public health nurse last fall, “I loved the town as soon as I got here.”

That led Esposito to apply for a permanent public health nurse position here, and she started in that role last month. She previously was a public health nurse in Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island.

Esposito grew up in San Francisco and later worked for a pathologist in Wyoming.

“The medical community was very important to the small, rural town I lived in, and to all the communities around,” Esposito said.

She became a certified nurse’s aide and community health aide and then returned to California. Esposito served the “chronically medically fragile” in community health settings and visited Medicaid patients.

“I would see the result of the lack of prevention, and that wasn’t the end I wanted to be dealing with,” she said. “I wanted to be on the end that was promoting prevention and promoting good health, so people didn’t end up in these conditions.”

Esposito was a full-time student in her 50s at Chico State University in California and earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

She posted her resume online, hoping for a travel nurse assignment, and the State of Alaska recruited her in 2009.

“One of the things I was wishing for, when I had this vision of myself, was that I would love to move to a foreign country that had both the mountains and the ocean, and I didn’t have to learn a new language,” Esposito said.

Alaska mostly fit the bill, and now she is aiming to boost immunization rates in Haines.

“Here I noticed there’s a small enclave of people who don’t believe in immunizations; they think it’s a government conspiracy,” Esposito said. “We didn’t have that in Ketchikan or Prince of Wales, so this is the first time I’m coming up against that. There are countries and places that don’t immunize very well, so we want children to be protected now and when they’re adults out there in the world.”

The Haines Public Health Center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and can be reached at 766-3300.

“We really are that safety net for people who have no insurance, with very low income and no other resources, but anybody can access us,” Esposito said. “We are everybody’s nurse.”