By Cody Neff
Everyone likes it when someone takes the time to recognize them for their hard work. One local woman says she’s happy that someone took the time to give her a special honor that has made her one of five West Virginians to receive the award.
Jessica Sharp, a nurse practitioner at Raleigh General Hospital, in June was given an award that made her a Fellow of the National Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Sharp says the award is given to “those who have made outstanding contributions to health.”
She also says she’s a person who has really dedicated herself to her field and taking care of people.
“I was dean of nursing at Mountain State University,” she said. “One of my initiatives was, and still is, to get people to go back and take care of the rural poor. I do a lot of that. The rural initiative is really big in the United States right now. Just because someone lives in a rural area doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get good care. They should get the same thing they would get in downtown New York.”
Sharp says she has a bit of advice for those who are in the health care field right now.
“My advice would be, with all of the changes that are going on, just hold on,” she said. “Deliver the same care that we’ve always given. I know that’s hard to do with all of the changes that have been going on. My advice would be to continue to give the same level of care that you’ve always given. Give people the care that made nurse practitioners famous. We take care of the whole patient, not just the medical disorder.”
Sharp says she loves spending time with her patients and she feels like she never gets enough time with each of them.
“The best thing about my field is treating patients every day and seeing how funny they are or how clever they are,” she said. “This is definitely a people field.
“It’s just hard to see patients in the amount of time that I’m supposed to see them. Everybody puts limits on how long you’re supposed to spend with patients and sometimes I take a little bit longer.
“I work in the emergency room of the hospital and we’re very, very busy. If I take 25 or 30 minutes with one patient, then that means there are a lot of people waiting to see me. They’re getting mad because their problems are just as important and they want to be seen immediately. It seems like no one knows that waiting is involved, but I understand that.”
Despite being an award-winning nurse practitioner, Sharp says she doesn’t come from a long line of nurses.
“There were no nurses in my family,” she said. “When I went to a career fair at school, at that time you could be a teacher or a doctor, but there was one little table for nursing. I just thought it would be a cool thing to do. I had no background, no role models, nothing. It just seemed like something I’d like to do.”
Although it might not be the most glamorous field in the world, Sharp says it’s easily the best.
“This is just a wonderful field,” she said. “You can do anything with nursing. If you like computers, we have tons of computer work in nursing. If you like to work at home, you can do chart work from home. If you want to help in patients’ homes, you can be a community nurse. If you want to take care of the elderly, then you can be a nurse in a clinic.
“You can be anything if you’re a nurse and still take care of health care needs. I don’t think there’s anyone smarter than a nurse when it comes to knowing health care needs because we’re out in it every day.”
Taking care of the whole person means doing a lot of volunteer work, Sharp says.
“I go with a group to Charleston to lobby for school lunches. I ask teachers how many of their kids eat free lunch and the number is huge. We lobby to keep those free lunches. School lunches are important. This field isn’t just about health care needs. We take care of all of a person’s needs.
“One of my volunteer passions is doing the physicals for Raleigh County Community Action. It’s amazing what we find out when we do those physicals. There are parents who can get a free physical for their kids, but they don’t do it. You have to think about what these parents are going through. They might both be working at McDonald’s and supporting a family through minimum wage. They might be a single mom or a single dad. They might not have time to take their kids in for a regular physical.”
Sharp says she doesn’t know if Obamacare will help the less fortunate, but she says she is holding out hope.
“We may have (the Children’s Health Insurance Program), but it’s usually the in-between young person who suffers the most,” she said. “It’s the people who are in their 20s that need the most help. Obamacare is supposed to take care of that.
“Every day we find need and take care of it. That’s the difference we make. I have no clue if Obamacare is really going to do some good, but I think the intention is great. I just don’t know how we’re going to take care of all of those people. I just don’t know how it’s going to play out. I’m hoping that more people do get care.”
Getting the Fellows Award took Sharp to Las Vegas, but that wasn’t the first time she’d been. Sharp says she’s been all over the place, thanks to nursing.
“A lot of things had changed in Las Vegas,” she said. “I’m used to traveling. Nurse practitioners have a lot of different conferences in a lot of different places. I go to Colorado almost every year. I go to Washington, D.C., pretty often.”
It may have shut its doors, but Sharp says she never stopped being proud of her program at Mountain State University.
“I taught at Mountain State University forever,” she said. “All of my graduated nurses that I taught all do the same thing. They go the extra mile to take care of someone. It really hurts my feelings when someone talks bad about Mountain State. Not all of the programs were bad. Mine was fully-accredited and going well. We taught people to care for people.”
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