When the Sheridan Health Services clinic first opened, Emily Cheshire, DNP, MS, FNP, RN, was the only provider. In addition to her, there was an RN, a receptionist and a medical assistant. Cheshire notes, “Now there are six providers with variable part-time hours, and most of these providers are University of Colorado professors.”
Even before her employment with Sheridan Health Services, she was passionate about her line of work. Her passion developed early, after she earned her first bachelor’s degree in business and began working for a startup genetics company. Her company worked in scientific fields, mainly looking at scientific and business aspects of products, but she was curious about the patients’ perspectives: “I was interested in the people who were involved in these tests rather than selling machines to scientists.”
After realizing this interest, Cheshire began volunteering in emergency rooms, mostly focusing on patient care. This included various non-medical tasks such as getting people warm blankets or sitting with patients while they waited their turn. It was at this point that she decided to go to nursing school.
Her interest is in serving people in resource-limited areas, whether these areas are countries that are resource-limited, or areas that are limited in quality. This indiscriminate passion led Cheshire to work abroad, first in Tanzania, then in Costa Rica and finally in Uganda before returning to Sheridan to practice as she does today.
In Tanzania, Cheshire worked in a small medical clinic and in an orphanage. She was offered a three-month position in a pilot program for an organization that set her up with the clinic and the orphanage in order to test the volunteer tourism waters. “We were asked to determine whether or not our experiences would be acceptable for future groups of volunteer tourists.”
Two years after this opportunity, Cheshire stumbled upon another one in Costa Rica while completing medical Spanish courses. Actually, it was her friend who stumbled upon a stingray while surfing and ended up in dire need of medical help. Cheshire rushed her friend to the nearest clinic, which happened to be closed. They broke down the door so that they could access antibiotics before heading for a hospital. The next day, Cheshire called the clinic owner to tell him what happened and to offer assistance in fixing the door. One thing led to another, and he ended up offering her a position as a registered nurse for the summer, and she accepted.
Three years after her stint in Costa Rica, Cheshire had the opportunity to follow her DNP course of study to Uganda for a six-week HIV fellowship through the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC). Her work at the Ugandan Lanchor Hospital and the patients she saw closely paralleled her previous work in the states at the Rocky Mountain Survivor Center. There, she worked in a torture treatment center with patients who were seeking asylum: lawyers were on staff to do their case work; nurses tried to keep them healthy; forensic staff proved torture occurred. In Uganda, her focus was a different high-risk population: HIV and AIDS patients.
Although her specialty during her DNP course of study was HIV and AIDS, Cheshire’s current specialty with Sheridan Health Services is family practice and chronic pain. “I mostly work with chronically ill adults now.”
What hasn’t changed is her passion: “My passion is providing quality, comprehensive care to people who have traditionally not had access to it.” In this spectrum of quality care that Sheridan provides, Cheshire includes advanced psychiatric care, home visitation, comprehensive care, dental care and coordinated care, all services that the clinic offers to their patients.
“The level of care provided at Sheridan is unique. The level of care I get with my private insurance pales in comparison,” Cheshire says.
“The team of people that we have is outstanding. Every employee is just really willing to help. Everyone here is extremely passionate about the population they are helping.”1
In November, 2011, Jacqueline Ansel joined Sheridan Health Services as the first Chief Operations Officer, and with her, brought much experience to help grow Sheridan to where it is now. Coming from a background of marketing and information technologies, Ansel brings a business-focus, fresh perspective, end-goal mentality that has proven successful.
Since 2011, one of the proudest accomplishments is the implementation of electronic health records, which makes the facilities much more efficient and accessible, though the process of scanning old documents to the new system was extensive.
While operations has become easier, it is due to not just IT improvements. Ansel, along with CEO Erika Schwartz, have been able to hire more providers and students. This is in part because they were successful in obtaining the Colorado Healthcare grant for $250,000 that helped to expand operations and employees. Having eager students work at Sheridan Health Services helps to give back to the community with quality professionals, as well as contribute to the continuing education students are looking for.
Ansel describes the environment at Sheridan as one that sets them apart from other community health centers because of the “integration and commitment to ourselves, the patient, and everyone chips in when needed.” When they are able to help a single mother, with three kids, going through a divorce, get the healthcare needed that is the type of fulfilling work Sheridan Health Services is proud of.5
Juanita Hernandez began working as a medical assistant with Sheridan Health Services in November 2012. As a medical assistant, her responsibilities are numerous, including blood draws, medical records, patient vitals, nebulator treatments, EKGs, triage, labs, vaccines, and administrative tasks such as taking appointments and transferring paper files to Sheridan’s ever-growing online database. Hernandez also checks in with Sheridan’s school-based clinic to work in pediatrics as well.
“Sheridan is great because patients have the opportunity for health care here that they normally wouldn’t,” Hernandez says. “Plus, everyone I work with here is friendly. We welcome everyone, try to make them feel comfortable.”
Although Hernandez will be beginning nursing school in June, she is planning to stay at Sheridan. She loves to work with the underserved community and plans to become an RN for the clinic.3
Megan Peak, RN, first worked for Sheridan Health Services as a student in the College of Nursing. Since graduating in August of 2013, she has assumed a nursing role with the center.
Peak was excited to return to Sheridan stating, “I have always known that I wanted to be in preventative and public health in underprivileged communities.” She ultimately hopes to contribute to educating patients on a healthier lifestyle that can prevent or help those with diabetes.
She is proud of the team at Sheridan who have come together on numerous incidents with patients that really needed the help. “We truly don’t turn people away. The people here have the biggest hearts.” When patients are financially disadvantaged, Peak says that Sheridan always finds a way to make sure they get the healthcare that is needed.
Norma Castro began working as a dental assistant with Sheridan Health Services in November 2013 when the on-site dental clinic was added to the facilities. Although she worked with a private clinic that served a much different population in the past, she currently enjoys helping underserved populations by providing services that are not normally available in those areas. As a dental assistant, Castro completes various administrative tasks and aids the dentist. She also sees many dental students pass through the clinic, and she teaches them the functions of a dental assistant. Castro is even able to fill in for the medical assistant when needed, learning even more skills to add to her impressive repertoire.
“The best thing about Sheridan is that we really do try to help the patients. We even offer financial support and payment plans to help patients get the care they need,” Castro says.
Castro completed her dental certificate program, worked at a private clinic, and then maintained a position at the university before transferring to Sheridan Health Services. Although she enjoys that, as a dental assistant, she works with patients more than she would if she were a dentist, Castro is interested in going back to school to become a dentist.2
When Bonnie Gance-Cleveland, PhD, RNC, PNP, FAAN, started the school-based Sheridan Health Services clinic in 1995, Sandra Palomares applied for the front desk position. She was working at a high school and had a newborn, so her schedule was difficult to manage; she was looking for a change. When she heard about the part-time position, she applied right away, and it was a great fit. When she was offered a full-time position in 1996, she gladly accepted. In 2005, the University of Colorado began to manage Sheridan Health Services in place of Children’s Hospital, and they opened the adult clinic. At first, Palomares only worked summers at the adult clinic, but as Sheridan Health Services grew, she transferred to the new location.
“The best thing about Sheridan is the population that we work with and being able to help patients who wouldn’t have access to that help otherwise. It’s all one home and they address all health needs at one site,” says Palomares.
As a Sheridan staff member for almost 20 years, Palomares has experienced a lot: “We have seen everything. Once, a man came in who was in need of a lot of help. We were able to treat his health concerns, set him up with meals on wheels, food banks and transportation. He still comes to us today. People really care. It was a great example of how everybody works together for the patient.”4