Nurses Leading with Care for Families and Communities

This month we will highlight the contributions that nurses make in their care for families and the local community.  Whether it’s helping families access vaccinations that prevent illness and cancer later on in life, or addressing disparities in cardiovascular or diabetes care, or advocating for better access for patients, these nurses and their teams go above and beyond to help improve outcomes of patients in the communities where they live and serve.

Leading with Care through Million Hearts

Margarita Sol, RN, Clinical Nurse Manager and Sheila Tank, FNP
Community of Hope
Washington, DC

February is American Heart Month. This week’s featured nurses are contributing greatly towards Improving Outcomes for Priority Populations through the Million Hearts initiative.

Margarita Sol, RN Clinical Nurse Manager and Sheila Tank, FNP, from Community of Hope in Washington, DC, have been participating in Million Hearts this year. This month, they were asked to present on the Million Hearts partner call, which includes participants from all health sectors throughout the entire country.  Margarita and Sheila began with the question, “How can we impact all hypertension patients, not just the uncontrolled?  How can we use our existing resources?”.  Using the whole care team, they developed five areas of focus:


1) Obtain accurate readings (training/equipment);

2) Activate team-based care approach (patients/behavioral health/patient advocates/nurses);

3) Follow hypertension guidelines for African American patients;

4) Standardize follow-up intervals; and

5) Outreach for common loopholes (change in meds/no-shows).

By activating team-based care using these approaches, the Community of Hope team increased the blood pressure control rates of 350 patients from 64% to 75% in just 1 year!

In the next year of work, Margarita, Sheila and their teams look forward to taking a deeper dive into blood pressure control using a population health approach and also scaling to other clinic sites and increasing sustainability.  This is another great example of nurses Leading with Care!

She’s Always Known Her Calling

Cristol Therien-Douglas, RN, BSN
Clinical Support Services Coordinator
Florida Community Health Centers, Inc.

From a young age, Cristol Therien-Douglas played the role of nurse by taking care of her mom when she was sick. She would dress up as a nurse, take her mom’s temperature and bring her food in bed. Little did she know that this passion would lead her to become a Registered Nurse, Nurse Leader, and Clinical Support Services Coordinator (CSSC) at Florida Community Health Centers, Inc,. There, she works with FCHC staff to ensure that the over 50,000 patients they serve receive the safest and highest quality care possible.

It is a role she takes very seriously.

Just ask Dr. Alejandro Miquel, CMO at FCHC and Cristol’s supervisor. “To say that Cristol has her hands full would be an understatement of epic proportions,” he said.

He rattled off just some of Cristol’s tasks:

  • provides orientation and manages ongoing training for newly hired clinical support staff
  • monitors center Nurse Supervisor’s compliance with periodic assessments to determine potential deficiencies
  • coordinates Department of Health 501 training (HIV counseling) and CPR certification/re-certification as required for support staff
  • performs annual reviews and update of the Clinical Systems Manual and Clinical Support Training Manual
  • leads monthly Nurse Supervisor meetings where she updates the nursing staff on audit findings, presents new policies, and reviews guidelines
  • participates in QI, Corporate Staff meetings, Clinical Coordinator meetings and the Infection Control Committee
  • assists the Chief Medical Officer in determining clinical support staffing requirements
  • performs OSHA education and keeps current with regulations/recommendations
  • tracks employee bloodborne pathogen exposure, conducts annual review of sharps/safety devices
  • coordinates evaluation of possible new safety devices for use by front line staff
  • maintains confidential employee medical records
  • provides oversight and updated information about the Vaccine for Children(VFC)/Vaccine for Adults (VFA) programs
  • organizes proper storage and transport of vaccines during hurricanes/power outages

While she has her hands full with other responsibilities, Cristol’s greatest passion is direct patient care where her true passion and skills shine through. Even though Cristol holds a leadership position in the organization, she will never hesitate to “get her hands dirty.” She does not miss a chance to fill in for a Nurse Supervisor or a Medical Assistant when one of their centers is short-staffed. She’s in the field four days a week.

Dr. Miquel added that Cristol is also one of community health centers’ greatest ambassadors. She has established strong relationships with community partners, educational institutions, and health departments. Her outreach efforts have facilitated recruitment efforts at the level of the clinical support staff, and made collaboration with other organizations in the communities seamless. She cares about the future workforce and coordinates student placement at the 12 centers for those seeking rotations or internship opportunities.

Cristol’s passion doesn’t stop at 5 pm. “I’m always thinking about how can we improve, take care of our staff, patients and get out in the community more,” she said.

“You Learn So Much From Those You Work With and Those You Serve”

Darlene Valcin, APRN
Florida Community Health Centers
St. Lucie, FL

Darlene Valcin, APRN, per her colleagues at Florida Community Health Centers, Inc., in St. Lucie, Florida, “is an exceptional nurse practitioner who takes great care of her patients.” Feedback from her patients are a consistent reminder of her care and concern for each of them and their specific circumstances.

One patient stated, “my appointment with Darlene Valcin was possibly the best medical service I have ever received… Darlene Valcin IMMEDIATELY made me feel welcomed and comfortable with her initial greeting and her overall concern for what I was sharing with her throughout my visit. She made my issues important and offered her knowledgeable expertise to every issue I told her about. A lot of my previous concerns I had before walking in are now resolved… I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed this overall visit and the glow it gave me walking out of the office feeling like I mattered.”

Her patients’ passion for her care is mirrored by Darlene’s own passion to serve.  Darlene shared that, “as an FNP at a community health center, we have to think outside the box to serve the clients we have here. We serve many migrant workers and others who do not have access to care. Ways that we provide services include a sliding scale fee at the pharmacy, and the Susan B. Coleman grant for mammography and other screenings”.

Darlene also addresses misconceptions about the role of nursing in community health centers. “I think there is a misunderstanding about community health that these clinics are only for patients without insurance coverage, or that it is an open health care department. In fact, our clinics are open to all and serve a wide range of clients. I believe that there are misconceptions about the [nurse practitioner] and our role in medication management and prescription, as well as our capabilities in managing critically ill patients.”

What brings Darlene the most joy about working in this role?

“Number one: The people I work with. They are the greatest people to work with because they are passionate about community health, and because they hold themselves accountable when mistakes are made or improvements are needed. And number two: our clientele. I love working with those in our community, and it means the world when they come in for our services and then refer others to us.”

Finally, the advice that Darlene would you give to people who are interested in this kind of nursing is this:  “I would tell them they would be going into a great field with the opportunity to make a tremendous impact in their communities. You learn so much from those you work with and those you serve.”


Sheila Kennedy, DNP, APRN, CNM
Southside Community Health Services, Inc.
Minneapolis, MN

Sheila Kennedy, DNP, APRN, CNM, of Southside Community Health Services began her contributions to families and communities before she was a midwife.  Her desire to help her community and travel led her to volunteering and teaching, both locally and even in Central America.  When she decided to go into medicine, she chose nursing because she saw it as a way to continue that love of teaching, especially in the field of women’s health.  Sheila shares that her patients bring her joy when she sees women taking control of their own health and making changes to make themselves feel better both physically and mentally.

Sheila’s advice to someone looking to get into midwifery or community health is to get as much exposure to their community as they can.  Tutoring and handing out meals, for example, can lead to remarkable understanding about the community and offers opportunities for building strong ties.

To learn more about how Sheila is “Leading with Care” through her work on preventing cervical cancer, head over to the NACHC blog.