Tonya Linthacum, FNP-BC – High Risk Breast Clinic Family Nurse Practitioner

I grew up in Macon, Mo., home of the Macon Tigers, and went to the University of Missouri for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing – once a Tiger, always a Tiger! My husband, Mike, and I both are nurses and met many years ago at the University Hospital where we both were working. We are also farmers: Our family farm is in Bethany, Mo. where my husband plants corn and soybeans. We live north of Columbia, out in the country, and have a small cattle herd and three dogs. They keep us busy! We have two hardworking boys, one of whom will graduate from Mizzou this year, and another who is a traveling welder.

Why did you get into the health care field?

When I was a child, my younger sister developed brain cancer. I recall going to many doctor appointments and spending time in hospitals with her. Through those experiences, I became interested in health care and wanted to grow up to make a difference!

What interested you in your particular specialty?

I have been a Nurse Practitioner for 23 years specializing in women’s health, cancer screening, and preventative care. Joining the HighRisk Breast Clinic at Boone Health is a natural progression in my career and a way to continue to serve my patients. I like knowing that I can help women be healthy, educated, and empowered to make the best decisions for their health.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

During my career, I have had many amazing opportunities to make a difference with patients, other health care professionals, and several leading cancer organizations at the local, state, and national levels. It is encouraging and gratifying to be a part of the big picture. All of us combine talents, expertise, and perspectives to work together to impact cancer care, with cancer awareness and early detection as my primary focus. One of the things I enjoy and am most proud of in my career is using my knowledge and influence to propel others to live their best lives. Whether it’s encouraging a young person to go for a degree in nursing, advising a peer to be confident and go after that promotion, or teaching my patient how to do breast exams and making lifestyle changes to be healthier, my goal is to be a positive influence.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

It is a challenging time to be in health care. We have a shortage of nurses, insurance companies are more difficult to work with, and sometimes needed supplies are delayed. These issues make our day-to-day jobs and duties more difficult to do.

What has changed in your field since you started practicing?

I n my early days as a nurse, we focused on treating a disease process. Today we focus on preventing the disease from happening, which I think is a great thing! We also have many more nurse practitioners in our communities than when I first started my career – another great thing!

What do you see changing in the next 5 to 10 years?

I think in the future, preventative health in the school systems, the workplace, our health care systems, and the government will become the fundamental goal and primary objective. Won’t that be great when we can prevent cancer from happening in the first place?

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

We enjoy the outdoors, gardening, and camping. My boys ride dirt bikes, and we like to follow them on their wild adventures.

What advice would you give someone looking to become a nurse?

Nursing is a great career choice with so many different roles and paths to chose from. I encourage young people who have a passion for helping others to consider a career in nursing. Go for it, it will serve you well in your life!