by Linda Friedel | Reprinted courtesy of KC Nursing News

Dale Fellin always knew dancing would not be enough. The dancer-turned nurse says he is lucky to do both.

“Go for it,” Fellin, RN, advises others. “I just feel so blessed to have entered into this field. It can be scary in the beginning. I didn’t have any clue where I was going to end up.”

Fellin, charge nurse at Research Psychiatric Center, said he has a passion for dancing and for nursing. He earned his first degree in fine arts more than two decades ago at Southwest Missouri State in Springfield, re-named Missouri State University. Fellin has performed for 20 years. He danced throughout the Midwest stages in companies such as Shoji Tabuchi Theatre in Branson, Springfield Ballet Company in Springfield, Mo., and in Omaha’s Central Dance Theater. He is currently a choreographer and dancer at City in Motion. During his seven years at Shoji Tabuchi Theatre in Branson’s hay day, Fellin performed in two shows each day to 2,000 people per show year around.

“That was almost like a dream. It was one of the few jobs that did not feel like a job,” Fellin said. “It was like playing and getting paid. It was a lot of hard work.”

Fellin said his path to dance and nursing has roots in his family’s gymnastics company his parents operated while he grew up. Fellin was pulled into the family business when he began teaching at the age of 14. By 19 he was coaching the company’s gymnastics team. He enrolled in dance classes to improve his skills in choreography. The classes led him to a lifetime of dance and to a new passion, he said. Fellin said he has always taught dance, gymnastics or exercise classes. Dancing and nursing both require discipline, Fellin said.

“I feel very fortunate that I’m getting to do both while I am able to,” Fellin said. “The management at Research has been very supportive to help allow me to do both.”

Fellin, 46, began to think about another career as he rolled into middle age, he said. Again, his family made an impact. When his mother cared for Fellin’s grandmother after her stroke, Fellin offered a set of hands. His mother was impressed with the care he gave and suggested he consider nursing.

“That planted the seed,” he said. “I’m a really firm believer that things fall in place that are supposed to.”

Several years later, Fellin transitioned to a new career. He earned his LPN through Metropolitan Community College, his ADN through Park University and his BSN through the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Fellin was diagnosed and treated for cancer during his LPN program but stayed the course, he said. The experience left him better able to empathize with patients, he said. The nurses served as role models.

“It was probably one of the hardest things I had to do,” Fellin said. “I have had enough life experience of my own that helps my empathy and understanding what patients are going through.”

Claudia Wilson, RN, director of nursing in the senior adult unit at Research Psychiatric Center, said Fellin has excellent people skills. He has made an impact as a leader and as a role model, she said.

“He knows how to lead and help people grow,” Wilson said. “He helps new gradates grow. He has helped create a very stable unit.”