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‘I like not knowing what's coming in the door’ Idaho’s first nurse practitioner honored at graduation

The 41-year-old mother of five opened Stanley's first emergency clinic on Father's Day of 1972. Marie Osborn spent the next 30 years serving her community.

CALDWELL, Idaho — Growing up blocks from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, Marie Osborn seemed destined to become a nurse, and she did get a nursing degree, but then she got married and had five kids and turned her focus on the family. 

Her husband, working for IBM, was tasked with running the company’s operations in Southern Idaho in the 1960s. 

They would camp out in the Sawtooths every summer, and occasionally someone would run through the campground looking for medical help, and Marie, as a nurse, would step in. That is when she would begin to get a glimpse into her future. 

Fast forward to mid-May in Caldwell as the College of Idaho Class of 2022 prepares for graduation. 

Among the fresh new graduates is a now 91-year-old Marie, wearing a graduation tam and gown. 

“An extraordinary trailblazer in the state of Idaho and across the world,” said Jim Everett the co-president of the College of Idaho. “She started the first medical clinic in Stanley, she is Idaho's first-ever nurse practitioner.” 

She said that this isn’t where she saw herself five decades ago, but her son, Doctor John Osborne said she answered a call. 

“One time, there was a terrible car accident up there. There were four kids involved, and it took a very long time to get the ambulance from Hailey,” John said. “And she said, 'you know, someone needs to do something about this, someone needs to do something about helping these rural communities with healthcare.’”

That someone would be Marie, with some help from Idaho lawmakers, in 1972. 

“At that time, Idaho was the first state in the nation to license nurse practitioners,” John said. “To try to respond to the needs of rural communities. Mom was the first licensed.” 

With that new license, the 41-year-old mother of five opened Stanley’s first emergency clinic, on June 19, 1972. At first it was a crisis care center. 

“Well, it's a huge tourist area,” Marie said. “People do some of the dumbest things in the middle of the night.” 

But then people began coming to the clinic for non-urgent medical needs. 

“Then people started coming in for their allergy shots, and blood pressure checks and chest pain, you sort of have to end up a jack of all trades,” Osborn said. 

Working in the backcountry was something Marie was familiar with. 

“She was the sole provider for about 6 thousand square miles of backcountry,” John said. 

But she needed help, so she put together a team of EMTs. 

“Marie was offering the EMT classes, and I took her class in 1975,” said Steve Lipus, an EMT who worked for Marie for 24 years. “When there was an incident in the backcountry: climbing accident, fell off a horse, somebody broke a leg or cardiac incident; we were pretty much the lead getting in the quickest way we could, mostly running.” 

Marie continued to help the community for nearly 30 years. 

“You know you don't think about that, you just start, and you do, and it gets more and more interesting,” Marie said. “I like not knowing what's coming in the door.” 

‘Not knowing’ was kind of a theme for the clinic’s early days. 

“This was a new concept of a nurse practitioner, no one knew what it was and mom in many ways had to define it,” John said. 

One of the bright spots in her career was setting up a pre-med internship program with the College of Idaho in the mid-70s. Marie’s students learned the importance of medical care in rural communities through the program. 

“When people ask what I was, I say I was a super nurse,” Marie said. “Because basically, that's what you are.” 

Marie left the Stanley clinic in 1999, but she left it in good hands, and it didn’t mean she stopped working. She went on to help rural clinics around Idaho like Horseshoe Bend, Idaho City, and Emmett, finally ending up in Boise to serve those with little or no income, and little to no insurance. 

She saw her last patient at the age of 80.  

Today, Marie is celebrated for the work she has done throughout the state, receiving an honorary doctorate. 

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