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University of Colorado College of Nursing

College of Nursing

Erica Schwartz

Identifying and Correcting Weaknesses in Systems of Care

Erica Schwartz

​When Erica Schwartz graduated with her bachelor's in nursing, she considered completely changing career paths. She was accepted to law school on a career path to become a nurse ethicist but needed a job until law school started, so she accepted a position as an obstetrical nurse at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Schwartz intended to leave nursing when law school started that fall. “When I first observed a birth attended by a nurse-midwife,” Schwartz said, “I was inspired by the support, compassion, and strength provided by the midwife.  She was in tune with the rhythm of labor and the dynamics of the family. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be a midwife.”

Schwartz said she recognized the clear distinction between births managed by midwives versus those managed by obstetricians. She was disturbed by a number of unnecessary and early interventions and saw it as an opportunity to make positive changes to standard obstetric care. Instead of going to law school, Schwartz pursued a midwifery degree. She earned an MSN in 2000 and a DNP through the University of Colorado College of Nursing in 2010. “The DNP degree was critical to my current success as an advanced practice nurse,” she said. “It helped expand my focus from a single specialty area to broader, population-based outcomes. ” Schwartz utilizes quality improvement processes, health informatics and leadership skills within her various roles.

Schwartz currently holds an impressive number of positions in advanced practice nursing with a focus on the business aspects of healthcare. In 2004, Schwartz became the director of Nurse Midwifery Faculty Practice at the University of Colorado, and in addition to directing University Nurse Midwives, developed a second practice, the Center for Midwifery, with a private practice business model and a focus on integrated approaches to perinatal care.

In addition to her work with the midwifery practices, Schwartz helped create and currently runs multiple specialty clinics that address unmet needs. She helped conceptualize, develop and continues to run The PROMISE Clinic, for example, which focuses on care for perinatal mood disorders and the adult expansion site at Sheridan Health Services, a nurse-run community clinic with two sites in low income areas.

These specialty clinics offer a spectrum of services, from dental care for school age children to behavioral health services for children, adolescents and adults. Though she’s involved in a range of projects, there’s a clear common thread throughout Schwartz’s career: she identifies weaknesses in systems of care and is driven to find or create a solution for them.

During her midwifery practice, for example, Schwartz had observed that mood disorders were difficult to address during routine perinatal appointments due to time constraints, and that some clinics give mental health screenings without a mechanism to treat. In 2009, she collaborated with experts from other divisions to create The PROMISE Clinic, which screens, evaluates and treats perinatal mood disorders, and gives patients the time and resources they need for care in one location with consistent providers. Schwartz currently serves as the clinic’s co-director.

In 2012, Schwartz received recognition as an endowed professor by the ob-gyn department for her work with The PROMISE Clinic, which speaks to the collaborative nature of integrated care models on campus.

Schwartz was also instrumental in securing significant funding for the adult expansion site at Sheridan Health Services. “Sheridan had a single school based health center practice starting in 1995 (managed by the College of Nursing since 2005) and now we have a second nurse-managed healthcare center based on a grant I co-authored with the School of Dental Medicine,” she said. “It is great to be able to deliver care the way you believe it should be delivered,” she said.

Both The PROMISE Clinic and Sheridan Health Services are fully integrated care models and are unique as being nurse-developed and nurse-managed. “The clinics engage and integrate several different specialties, which enriches the care provided to every individual,” Schwartz said.

“I am well supported by the College of Nursing when venturing into new projects,” she said. “There are a tremendous number of opportunities as an advanced practice nurse. Working here enables me to focus on healthcare delivery system integration, enhance my knowledge of the business aspects of nursing, and to make a difference in the lives of individuals being served by our clinical faculty practice.