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It takes a team to help folks with addictions

Daryl Sharp knew she wanted to pursue a career in which she could make a significant contribution to society.
 
"It simply occurred to me one day that I thought I would make a good nurse, so I applied to colleges with schools of nursing and have never looked back," Sharp says.
 
She has served more than three decades in the field. She works at the University of Rochester School of Nursing as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, associate dean for faculty development and diversity, and associate professor of clinical nursing.
 
A portion of her career has been focused on working to help patients with psychiatric ailments decrease their tobacco dependence through nursing education and research.
 
As a member of the clinical team of the Healthy Living Center at URMC’s Center for Community Health, Sharp helps individuals make desired lifestyle changes in areas such as tobacco use, diabetes prevention, nutrition, exercise and stress prevention.
 
Bradford Berk M.D., CEO of the medical center, praises Sharp’s accomplishments in the field, noting that she is a patient advocate who has based her life’s work on listening to patients and responding to their needs.
 
Sharp relishes working with patients and staff on challenging, and often intimate, health issues.
 
"Nursing is a team sport," Sharp says. "I think the best nurses are those who partner with their patients and colleagues to help people achieve their health goals. Establishing, cultivating and tending those partnerships are the best part of nursing to me."
 
A close second is the diversity of experiences nursing affords her. The possibilities in practice, research and education are endless, Sharp says, and she is never bored.
 
She says it can be tough working with people who are trying hard to change difficult behavior. In addition, many she sees are challenged with mental illness and lack adequate access to health care or socioeconomic resources.
 
"People with psychiatric disorders are often marginalized and stigmatized in our society, which makes it especially challenging for them to get the help they need to improve their health," Sharp says. "The same interventions that help people in the general population stop smoking or change lifestyle behaviors help people with psychiatric illnesses, but they often need more support."
 
When working with those trying to make a lifestyle behavior change, she says it is important to take a long view.
 
"It’s hard to change behavior, so we all have to work together to remain motivated to help people maintain their motivation for behavior change," she says. "Working with a strong inter-professional team to problem solve, especially when the going gets rough, staying on top of the literature, and reminding myself that it’s difficult for most people to stop smoking or change behavior even when one is not challenged by a serious mental illness helps me to stay motivated and engaged with patients and with the staff who are working with them."
 
Nursing is not simply a job but a vocation for Sharp.
 
"As health care delivery becomes more complex, information continues to explode and our society ages, nurses must be committed to lifelong learning," she says.    

Health Care Achievement Awards Special Supplement: 3/23/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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