12/8 Virtual Job Interview Event - Entry-level Titles
Careers at UW Health

Learning from the best

Learning from the best

Jess Derks

APP Spotlight: Jess Derks, Nurse Practitioner, Neonatology; American Family Children’s Hospital; Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Tell us about yourself.

I’m from a small town called Hortonville, Wisconsin. I’m the oldest of three and have a brother and sister. I’m the only one who went to college. I knew college was in my future since I was very young. I attended Marian University in Fond du Lac, where I earned my bachelor’s degree. I have always loved kids and I knew wanted to work with them. My senior year in college, I trained at St. Joseph’s in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and knew, without a doubt, that is where I wanted to be. I’ve now been a nurse for 15 years.

Tell us about your family.

My husband, Bob, and I have been married for 13 years. Our three kids—Sloane, 12, Sutton, 8, and Crewe, 5—keep me busy outside of work. We now live outside of Hortonville and our extended family lives nearby.

How did you come to UW Health?

When I was in graduate school and thinking of clinical sites and possible job positions, I knew if I wanted to be the best, I had to learn from the best. I applied for a neonatal nurse practitioner position at UW Health. Even though it was six months before graduation, I wanted them to know I was interested in their program. The recruiter told me about a unique neonatal nurse practitioner internship. I completed the internship while in graduate school. The internship paid a nurse wage and that was very attractive for me and my family. Now, I work as a nurse practitioner at American Family Children’s Hospital.

What inspires you about your profession?

Early in my career, one of my teachers taught me that babies whisper to us and it is our job to listen and react accordingly. I have held onto that lesson my entire career. Bedside nursing is so vital and I’m honored to be trusted by families to care for their fragile baby. People often ask how I do it. Sometimes we do lose a patient and those are the absolute worst days. When that happens, I always take time to decompress. I also see micropreemie, a baby who is born on or before 26 weeks or weighs less than 28 ounces. Many of them are on ventilators. The day I get to watch them leave the hospital, breathing on their own and thriving, fills my heart with so much joy. Those days keep me going.

Do you have a memorable experience in your career that has stayed with you?

I recall a little boy who stole my heart a few years ago. He was born with cytomegalovirus (CMV) and it went to his brain. How that mama loved her baby boy—the way she looked at him, I’ll never forget. He was one of my first patients working at American Family Children’s Hospital, born at 32 weeks. In addition to CMV, he had cleft palate in addition to endocrine and esophageal issues. There were so many specialties involved in his care and they all worked seamlessly together. Eventually palliative care got involved and, unfortunately, he didn’t survive. The entire team did absolutely they could for him and I was incredibly honored to be a part of his team.

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

My patients are tiny but oh so mighty. They teach me resilience and patience and I carry those traits with me at home as well. Being a working mom is hard. I see moms in the NICU who can’t take their babies home because they have long stays in the hospital. Some even lose a child. It’s devastating and so I never take anything for granted. COVID-19, workplace challenges and turnover are hard to deal with. My little patients teach me to love. I am thankful to fight with them for their recovery and health. It’s the best gift.

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

The NICU team members are the best. They have such great minds and hearts. They foster learning and growth. Our faculty leader, Ryan McAdams, MD, is incredible. He is a busy doctor but is always attentive to our staff and takes time to get to know us and our families. He wants us to excel in our interests. I feel the advanced practice provider (APP) role is highly valued and respected here. UW Health has always been progressive and recognizes talent⸺and that is refreshing.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

By far, I’m most proud of my kids and family. I worked hard in graduate school and I missed out on so much with them. I’m invested in my job but also in my home and family. So, I make every effort to be present for them.

Helping patients feel respected and safe

Sarah Benedict

APP Spotlight: Sarah Benedict, Nurse Practitioner, Internal Medicine, 20 S Park Clinic, Madison

Tell us about yourself?

I’m celebrating my 15-year work anniversary at UW Health, 11 of those years as a registered nurse. I pursued my nurse practitioner degree when my kids were very young. I consider getting my master’s degree as my third child! I completed my master’s through an online program and earned my clinicals at UW Health and Physicians Associated. I originally thought I’d go into cardiology but fell in love with internal medicine early in my training. I enjoy collaborating with the nurses, fellow advanced practice providers (APPs) and MDs, and really couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I am very proud that my team and I implemented service geared toward treating alcohol and drug use disorders in our clinic practice, and broadened patient care for prevention of HIV.

Tell us about your family.

I am a mother of two kids, Beau, 7, and Halle, 8. They keep my husband, Matt, and I very busy. We have a 33-year-old horse, Fargo. I’ve had him since I was 13. This summer, we adopted two kittens from a local rescue. For fun, we try to get outside as much as possible and to hike, walk, bike and hang out near lakes. We recently took a family trip to Breckenridge, Colorado. The area is beautiful and fun in the summer months. 

How did you come to UW Health?

I grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and attended Viterbo University there. At a career fair, I chatted with a UW Health recruiter who introduced me to the nurse residency program and it really interested me. I completed my nurse practitioner training at Gunderson Clinic in La Crosse. I really wanted to work in an intensive care unit (ICU) and was lucky to be hired into the Cardiac Medical ICU at University Hospital where I worked for two years before transitioning to the cath lab procedure area.

What inspires you about your profession?

I love having the extra autonomy that being an APP gives me. A nurse is a highly respected role but is still working under the direction of a doctor. As a nurse practitioner in internal medicine, I design a patient’s care team, diagnose illness, prescribe treatments, and monitor routine health and wellness. I see adult patients, ages 18⸺100+ for routine visits, acute conditions or new diagnoses. I love that I am encouraged to develop my interests, including drug and alcohol abuse, HIV prevention and transgender health. I also make it my mission to get more APPs comfortable with these areas.

Do you have a memorable experience in your career that has stayed with you?

I can’t recall a specific moment, but am always touched when I receive a nice card or MyChart message from a patient who is thankful for the care I provided. It is fulfilling to know I am truly helping people live better lives. I also love taking care of moms and daughters, married couples or an entire family.

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

My patients have taught me humility. As a provider, I expect my patients to disclose to me highly personal details. I go out of my way to make sure they feel respected, protected and safe with me. And in turn, I’m always honest. For me, it’s okay if I don’t have the answer but it’s absolutely my responsibility to get them the help they need. My patients also teach me vulnerability. I take time to learn more about them to establish a trusting relationship. Open and honest communication is important. It’s always my job to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

The team I work with is fantastic! We are family. I see them more during the week than my own family. We trust and admire one another. They know me well; we lean on one another for help. We have a synergy with our workday. I know I can lean on the team to take care of my patients if I can’t. We troubleshoot and always have each other’s backs. The nurses, MAs and scheduling personnel are such an important part of my team, and I couldn’t do my job without their huge efforts.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

I’m proud we are raising our children to respect the healthcare community and diversity. They are proud of their dad, who is our family’s general care provider. He transitioned from his full-time job as an engineer when COVID-19 hit hard in March 2020 and has been home taking care of our family and home ever since. I’m proud we can thrive in a time of uncertainty. It has really tested us as a family unit and we are doing incredibly well.

I also must mention another inspiration. My husband’s mother—who I never met—passed away in her 50s from breast cancer. She was a trailblazing nurse practitioner in family medicine. We laugh that he married a nurse practitioner—it’s like a true continuation of her memory and legacy.

At the end of the day, I love my job—I’m lucky.

Assuring patients they can do hard things

Rose Staden

APP Spotlight: Rose Staden, Nurse Practitioner, Infectious Diseases, University Hospital and HIV Care/Prevention Clinic

Tell us about yourself.

I am a mom and live with my husband and kids in the fun Tenney-Lapham neighborhood. I love playing sand volleyball in the summer and all the outdoor activities Madison has to offer. We try to travel by bike as much as possible and it has been fun exploring with my kids this summer. I am the only nurse practitioner in the UW Health HIV Care and Prevention Program. After 10 years, I continue to thrive in my role.

My husband and I live in Madison with our two children, ages 6 and 4. We have extended family throughout Wisconsin and Illinois and on both coasts.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in rural west central Wisconsin, near Tomah.

How did you come to UW Health?

I started as an inpatient registered nurse after graduating from UW–Madison School of Nursing and returned following graduate school as a nurse practitioner.

What inspires you about your profession?

HIV and HIV prevention have evolved significantly. It’s amazing to think how far treatment has come. Unfortunately, we are still far from a cure, but it’s encouraging to share with new patients that with daily medication they can live a long healthy life, have a family and continue activities they love. With effective HIV treatment, there is no risk of sexual transmission to partners, which is really important information to empower patients with. We are able to offer very effective, well-tolerated HIV-prevention medications to anyone at risk for HIV. We continue to spread the word about HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)—and it is rewarding to give patients this tool for prevention.

Do you have a memorable moment in your career that has stayed with you?

Receiving a diagnosis of HIV is a life-altering experience. I want patients to know that we understand this and that it gets better. I’ve seen people come full circle, from devastation at diagnosis, to showing strength during treatment, to celebrating their undetectable status. To be a part of each patient’s journey is not only an honor, but has become a part of how I practice. I find strength in this process and work hard to convey hope to those who are newly diagnosed. We follow patients long term, so we are there with them to share in many of their life experience. I feel fortunate to share in patients’ joy as they have babies they never thought they would have, become HIV peer mentors to support others, and incorporate their diagnosis into their lives, however that works for them.

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

My patients have taught me how to use the urban dictionary! It’s been so useful with our young adult patients. Every patient has their own unique experience, and to effectively do my job, I need to ask questions and be curious. It is essential that I convey this interest in a nonjudgmental way, and assure them we can all do hard things. HIV treatment has come such a long way and can be well-managed with a daily pill for many patients, but stigma is still pervasive. Many have overcome very challenging situations and adversity. My patients inspire me.

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

I work with an amazing team of nurses, social workers, pharmacists, medical assistants and clinicians. This is critical to comprehensive HIV care, and the insight from each team member is so valuable. Everyone works well together to provide thorough and smooth visit but as well as ongoing support for patients beyond the clinic visit. It is through this collaboration with our team that patients remain engaged in care.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

I taught my 4-year-old to ride his bike without training wheels and he loves it so much!

Helping people through the scariest moments of their life

Neil Brauner

APP Spotlight: Neil Brauner, Nurse Anesthetist, Anesthesiology, University Hospital; American Family Children’s Hospital

Tell us about yourself.

After earning my nursing degree from Madison Area Technical College (MATC), I started my career as a nursing assistant. In 2006, I started working in the neurology intensive care unit. I worked as a registered nurse (RN) for a year, then transferred to the Trauma and Life Support Center (TLC). In February 2018, I began working as a nurse anesthetist (CRNA). A CRNA is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has specialized training in anesthesia. We administer anesthesia for procedures and surgeries, either alone or with a team of healthcare providers.

After earning a nursing degree, you typically train on the job with hands-on learning. For the CRNA role, the path was different. The first year was spent in the classroom and the second year was all in the operating room. I finished school knowing how to do the work right away. I came out of school knowing how to do the work right away.

I’m proud to also mention that during the height of COVID-19 in 2020, I helped create and implement protocol for donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Tell us about your family.

I grew up here in Madison on the east side of town. I have been married to my wife, Myra, for 20 years.  We have two great kids, Kaden, 13, and Lucas, 10, who keep us very busy. We also have two dogs and a lizard.

How did you come to UW Health?

I came to UW Health in 2003 as a nursing assistant on the transplant surgery unit. I knew I wanted to work here as an RN and thought at the time that I would become a flight nurse with Med Flight.

What inspires you about your profession?

Being a CRNA involves an immense amount of trust between me and my patient and their family.  Building that trust in the short minutes before taking the patient to the operating room is challenging and also rewarding. I help people get through some of the scariest moments in their life.

Do you have a memorable experience in your career that has stayed with you?

There are so many things that stick with you in nursing and CRNA practice. One of my most memorable experiences was with a patient who was who was already a part of my family’s life. He had an emergency event resulting in an injury that required surgery. As a member of his care team, it was nothing short of amazing to watch his miraculous recovery.

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

My patients have taught me that I am more resilient than I ever thought I could be.

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

My coworkers are dedicated, skilled and caring.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

I enjoy remodeling projects on our house and recently renovated our laundry room and youngest son’s bedroom.

Life is a gift

Mike Barnes

APP Spotlight: Mike Barnes, Physician Assistant, Cardiothoracic Surgery, University Hospital

Tell us about yourself.

I’ve been a physician assistant for 15 years and spent my first 12 years in pediatric and adult congenital heart surgery. But I didn’t start my working career in medicine. My undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree is in political science from the University of Michigan. I was a commercial real estate broker for seven years in Michigan, then became a real estate consultant in the San Francisco area. We later moved to Wisconsin when my wife, Julie, had a job change. I went to Marquette University and earned my Master of Physician Assistant Studies. I also received an emergency medical technician (EMT) and CNA certification. As part of my PA clinical, I joined the cardiovascular surgery team at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. During the eight weeks I spent there, I learned so much and became more passionate about heart surgery. At the end of the rotation, they offered me a position and I did all of my training on the job.

During that time, my second child was born early at 32 weeks, and he needed the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). It was a tough time, but I learned fast how to juggle a lot under pressure. I worked over 100 hours a week for the summer. It was intense. In my second week being employed, I assisted with an emergency neonatal valve repair. I worked at Children’s for six years and developed more skills. I then worked at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, moving to help my family when my aunt had lung cancer. Shortly after she passed, my late mentor and friend, Dr. Jim Tweddell, asked me to come back to Milwaukee. In my “free time,” I learned to fly an airplane and earned my multi-engine commercial pilot’s license. I worked in Milwaukee for another three years and then, when Jim was offered a job at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, I joined him there. I wanted a shorter commute and flew myself back and forth to and from home.

How did you come to UW Health?

I missed my wife and boys and many of their activities while commuting to Cincinnati. I reached out to the UW Health team when a position in cardiothoracic surgery became available. They offered me a position at University Hospital and trained me in cardiac surgery. I’ve been a physician assistant working in adult cardiothoracic surgery for three years now. Because of my experience in pediatric heart surgery, I also offer support and assistance at American Family Children’s Hospital. Recently, I restarted training in organ (heart/lung) procurement. I’m excited about this part of my medical journey and the opportunity to work in this important specialty.

Tell us about your family.

Julie and I live in Pewaukee with our two sons, Lucas, 17, and Seth, 15. We live in Pewaukee. Baseball and hockey keep us very busy, and we love it. We travel out of state most weekends throughout the year.

inspires you about your profession?

I hope to make people’s lives a little better by improving their longevity and quality of life. I feel I’ve been given a gift—I don’t think of what I do as a job. It’s not an easy career. You must be 100 percent available all the time. You have to make sacrifices but everything balances out.

Do you have a memorable experience in your career that has stayed with you?

Early in my career while working as a CNA at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, I met my future mentors, Michael Madrzak, PA-C, and Jim Tweddell, MD. I was invited to watch them perform a Norwood procedure, where the surgeon and team build a new, larger aorta and modify the blood flow of the body. It was a 7-day old baby. The surgery took 8 hours. Watching them, I knew I wanted to be a physician assistant specializing in cardiac surgery. Every single movement during the procedure was so delicate. The heart is the size of a walnut. I was in awe. It was complex and like a dance. They spoke very few words but knew precisely how to work together.

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

I have learned humility, patience and to treat every day as a gift. I remind myself to be appreciative of what I have and where I am today. It’s easy to complain about a bill not getting paid on time or an easy household task not being met. Living in the moment and being grateful is something I work hard to do every day.

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

Selfless is the first word that comes to mind. Everybody is accommodating and generous. We all understand life happens and we all need to be flexible with one another. There isn’t any drama with the four other physician assistants I work with. They are all talented and experienced, and are in this profession because they share a passion for helping people who can’t help themselves.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

My wife was let go from her job and career of 25 years in retail when COVID-19 hit our nation hard in March 2020. She then started her own dog daycare, grooming and boarding service and is now an entrepreneur. The last two years have been busy, and helping her with her business has occupied my time outside of work. I’m proud of her work and enjoy helping the business be more successful. I am also proud of raising two boys who I believe are good citizens and will contribute when their time comes.

Gaining skills and helping patients

Meredith Arevalo

APP Spotlight: Meredith Arevalo, Nurse Practitioner, Internal Medicine; Union Corners Clinic

Tell us about yourself.

I started two years ago at UW Health as a float advanced practice provider (APP) and transitioned to UW Health Union Corners Clinic after about a year. What I love about internal medicine is I get to see patients of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.

I am a dog mom to two mini goldendoodles, Rosie and Violet. I love taking them on walks and to local dog parks. Prior to the pandemic, I also loved to travel often, and hope to be able to do so again soon.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota. I earned my master’s degree from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tell us about your family.

I’m the youngest of four kids. My mom grew up in Monona so we visited my grandparents and extended family in the Madison area often. Eating at Ella’s Deli is one of my favorite memories of coming to Madison as a child.

How did you come to UW Health?

I started my career as a nurse practitioner working in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in Maryland, where I also have family. After several years, I missed the Midwest and decided to move back to Wisconsin. While looking for a job, UW Health stood out for the quality of care it provides to patients and the generous benefits offered to employees.

What inspires you about your profession?

Internal medicine continually pushes me to learn and gain new skills to help our patients. Sometimes this means learning about unusual conditions in the process of evaluating a patient’s symptoms and concerns. It also involves identifying the best type of care for each patient, whether that be in a primary care setting or with a specialist.

Tell us about the Suboxone/Opioid clinic work you are doing and your hopes and goals for the program.

I’ve been working with my internal medicine and family medicine colleagues on a quality improvement project to start providing medication for opioid use disorder within our primary care clinic. My hope with this project is to improve our patients’ access to medication for this chronic condition, which has been shown to reduce hospitalization and death from overdose. I also hope this helps to streamline their care, as specialty referrals may involve long wait times or the need to find transportation.

We will start by working with patients currently seen outside specialty providers for buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone) medication as part of managing their opioid use disorder. We will discuss with the patient and their current providers whether they may be a good fit to have their medication managed within primary care instead. As our clinic and providers gain more experience working with this medication, we may later expand our services to help patients struggling with opioid use disorder start buprenorphine-naloxone as well.

Do you have a memorable experience in your career that has stayed with you?

Prior to working in internal medicine, I practiced family medicine for several years. One moment that was particularly meaningful to me was when I identified symptoms of preeclampsia in the mother of a newborn patient I was seeing in the clinic. I got the mother in for a visit and then helped coordinate her transport to the hospital for further evaluation, where she was admitted.

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

Working with my patients helps remind me of the importance of vulnerability. We ask this of our patients—to be vulnerable and share with us their lifestyle choices that can impact their health—to help us provide them with the best care possible.

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

I feel lucky to work with a team that is dedicated to our patients and always willing to help each other. In particular, our nurse triage team works tirelessly to help make sure our patients have access to care.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

I got engaged! My fiancé, Zeb, and I will be getting married next summer.

Motivated by gratitude

Emily Smith

APP Spotlight: Emily Smith, Physician Assistant, Cardiovascular Medicine; East Madison Hospital

Tell us about yourself.

I’ve been a physician assistant for 15 years but just started with UW Health in February of this year. Prior to that, I was in emergency medicine. I loved the emergency room, but the schedule made it hard to maintain balance with my home life as my kids get older and more involved with school and sports. It’s been quite a leap to go from emergency medicine to a clinical subspecialty but I’m loving it so far. The normal sleep schedule isn’t too shabby either.  

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, studied abroad in Australia, and then attended the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in the Physician Assistant Program. I now live in Sauk Prairie with my family.

Tell us about your family.

My husband and I have two kids, a 10-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. We tend to spend our free time in the woods or on the water, trying to squeeze as much summer out of Wisconsin as we can with wake surfing, kiteboarding and foiling.

How did you come to UW Health?

When I was looking to transition out of emergency medicine, I wanted something that would not only allow me to be more present for night/weekend activities with my family, but also something I genuinely had a passion to learn. I had a reputation as a bit of an “EKG nerd” in the emergency room, and have always been fascinated by cardiac physiology, so the electrophysiology position seemed like a great fit. I was also drawn to the fact that it’s an academic hospital. I love learning and teaching, and there is never a shortage of opportunities for either.

What inspires you about your profession?

I am grateful that the advanced practice provider (APP) profession allows me to carry my love for teaching to the bedside. Helping patients understand their condition aids them in taking ownership of their own health. It allows them to be a part of the decision-making process instead of just a bystander living with a diagnosis. We see many patients with atrial fibrillation (Afib) in clinic, and this dysrhythmia can be significantly impacted by lifestyle modifications, an area of medicine that has piqued my interest the last few years. Counseling patients on medication, procedural options and everyday lifestyle decisions puts some of the control back in their hands. It is gratifying to follow these patients as they implement modifications and then see the changes translate into better quality of life.

Do you have a memorable experience in your career that has stayed with you?

Since nearly all my career thus far has been spent in the emergency room, most of my memorable moments are there. Even though I can recall plenty of patients due to the severity of their trauma or illness, some of the connections that are most memorable are with family members. I worked at some smaller rural emergency rooms where we didn’t have a large team at our disposal, so oftentimes once a code was up and running, I would then be responsible for gathering more information from family and talking them through the code. It’s an incredibly raw and vulnerable time, usually the worst day of their life, and it’s important that they feel informed and connected to what’s happening to their loved one.

A patient’s wife wrote me the nicest letter after her husband had coded, saying I was the one person she and her kids remembered from the whole experience. They live out of town and one of her children asked if I could come back once their dad was an inpatient at a hospital closer to home.

Although I’m still quite new to the electrophysiology team, some of my most memorable clinic experiences are post-procedure follow up visits. They tend to be straightforward, but they are far from mundane. Whether it’s an ablation or placement of a device, patients come back to the clinic eager to share with me all that they’ve been able to return to gardening, cycling, playing with their kids/grandkids, all without the limitations of their dysrhythmia. Hearing patients’ gratitude and seeing their motivation never gets old.  

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

My patients have taught me to be a better listener. I can sometimes get a little overzealous about the science and pathophysiology of it all, but patients don’t always share that same intrigue. Oftentimes, and understandably so, they just want to know how a particular condition or procedure is going to impact them, their family, hobbies and daily life. Through my years of experience, I’ve come to recognize the importance of meeting patients where they are. I listen to their concerns and goals of care, and then providing education that is specific to their unique situation.

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

Brilliant. Welcoming. Driven. Electrophysiology is a complex field, and coming in as the newbie, I’ve asked a ridiculous number of questions. The APP team, doctors, electrophysiology nurses, device nurses and cardiology APPs at large have all been so gracious with their patience and willingness to teach. It’s both inspiring and humbling to be affiliated with this team.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

I learned how to drive a Zamboni! I have a hunch you were looking for something different from that question, but driving a Zamboni is pretty rad.

Empowering patients to feel confident

Daramis Toribio

APP Spotlight: Darmis Toribio, Nurse Practitioner, Family Medicine, SwedishAmerican Rochelle and Davis Junction Clinic

Tell us about yourself.

I always knew I wanted to do something in healthcare. Anything that had to do with the human body amazed me. When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor. Given my interest in the medical field, I decided to join my high school’s tech prep program. This allowed me to get clinical hours and college credit in order to complete a certified nursing assistant (CNA) program while still in high school. Upon graduating, I worked at a local hospital as a CNA and decided that nursing was the right route for me. 

I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Saint Anthony College of Nursing in Rockford. After several years of working as a hospital nurse, I was ready to further advance my career. It was a challenging time in my life. My boys were 2 and 3 years old and I was not quite sure how I would be able to juggle working 12-hour nights and finish school. With the help of my family, especially my mother, Rosenda, I was able to complete the program and graduate in 2016. 

Where did you grow up?

I was born in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. I have always been a bit of a homebody so have not ventured far.

Tell us about your family.

Family is very important to me. My husband, Jason, and I have been married for 15 years and we have three children—Jason, 13, Enrique, 12, and Valentina, 7 months. We feel complete with the addition of our daughter. My boys love having a little sister. I am blessed to have my parents and four of my five siblings close by.

How did you come to UW Health?

I was drawn to SwedishAmerican Health System (now UW Health) because for as long as I can remember, it has been a healthcare leader in my community. I went to an open house before I applied for a position and was pleasantly surprised by the diversity among the employees. I could not have asked for a better place to work.

What inspires you about your profession?

I feel inspired knowing that patients trust me to help them regain their health. I truly enjoy taking care of others. When I was a hospital nurse, I felt confident knowing that my patients were well cared for and comfortable on my watch. As a nurse practitioner in a clinic setting, it is a more hands-off approach, but I still can have a positive impact on the patients I see. My goal is always to teach and empower patients to learn the necessary tools to feel confident making decisions at home that will ultimately have a positive impact on their health.

Do you have a memorable experience in your career that has stayed with you?

Throughout my career I have had so many special patient encounters. I will always remember one geriatric patient who unfortunately was struggling with addiction. He was the only patient that I ever had to administer Narcan to. On that particular day, he had used before his visit and despite his lethargic state, his friend brought him to the clinic in a wheelchair. He always came to the clinic with an open mind, and after a while, I realized he was extremely lonely, and likely saw our visits as “therapy.” Sadly, he lost his battle with addiction. He taught me a lot about myself, not only as a provider but as a person. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that we do that can have such a positive impact on a patient.

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

I am constantly learning from my patients. One big lesson I had to learn early on was to be more humble. I have made the mistake of coming into a visit thinking I knew what was best for the patient before sitting and listening to them. Sometimes the most important part of our job is just being present and listening. My patients also help remind me how important it is to not take my health for granted and to take time to enjoy the little things in life.

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

I feel very fortunate to work with such a great team. There are a few provider teams within the clinics but despite these designated teams, we all work together to make sure patients are well cared for. My colleagues and I often discuss patient scenarios with one other and I love the fact that we all value each other’s input. I feel that the organization truly values the work that APPs provide and I feel blessed to work in such a supportive environment.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud? My most important accomplishment this year would have to be giving birth to my daughter, Valentina! 

Advancing children’s quality of life with SMA

Cory Sieburg

APP Spotlight: Cory Sieburg, Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Neurology; University Hospital; American Family Children’s Hospital

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Wisconsin just outside of Madison and lived there with my parents and older brother. My mother was a nurse who cared for geriatric patients, and I knew early on that I wanted to be a nurse, too. I always loved working with children and aspired to a future in pediatrics. I spent time working with children who have special needs and nannied in college. My husband, Jack—who was my high school sweetheart—and I have two kids, Everett, 5, and Adeline, 3, and a dog named Selke. We enjoy staying busy on the weekends and are a huge hockey family.

Where did you go to school?

I attended Edgewood College in Madison for my undergraduate degree in nursing, completing my clinicals at UW Health. After graduating, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, with my best friend for my first job in a pediatric intensive care unit. We lived there for a few years, joined by my now husband, Jack. We later moved to Chicago for his job and I worked in the emergency department and post anesthesia care unit at Lurie Children’s Hospital (formerly Children’s Memorial). During my years in caring for patients, I saw a lot of my colleagues going back to school and soon had the same desire. I attended an accelerated Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program at Vanderbilt University, with monthly travel for classes and completion of my clinical hours in Chicago. It was a crazy time in my life, but I was so thrilled to have the experience.

How did you come to UW Health?

After I completed my nurse practitioner program, I was open to any specialty but wanted to find a team and organization that supported the success and growth of nurse practitioners. When I met with the wonderful providers that make up the pediatric neurology team at UW Health, I knew I wanted to work with them. I joined the team early in 2016 and have been here ever since.

What inspires you about your profession?

My patients are always my inspiration. I find kids to be the most resilient and accepting of challenges, and they love the joy they find in all they do. I’m a big kid at heart, so to be playful and have fun with the kids is the best part of my job.

Tell us about your work with spinal muscular atrophy.

I found an opportunity to utilize my expertise in research to provide life-changing treatments. Though I have done many things within pediatric neurology, my job transitioned at UW Health to a focus of neuromuscular diseases. A large area of my focus has been to manage and coordinate the treatment programs for children with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). In short, this is a genetic mutation that results in a deficiency of a protein that is critical to the function of nerves that control our muscles. Children with SMA do not produce enough protein, which impacts the nerve cells and results in muscle weakness. In the most severe form left untreated, SMA can be fatal. When I joined the neurology team, there was no treatment for this disease. A large team managed patients’ respiration, nutrition, rehabilitation needs and many other aspect of their care. Since then, there have been many advancements and clinical trials, some of which we have had the privilege of offering to our patients, and now these patients have better outcomes.

Do you have a memorable experience in your career that has stayed with you?

I have two. The first one still makes me tearful to this day. I was caring for a young woman who had recently gotten married, but had a very life-limiting diagnosis of severe pulmonary hypertension. The movie “Wall-E” had just come out, but due to being sick, she missed seeing it in the theater. She wanted a movie date with her husband. I bought the movie for them and brought it to her room, along with popcorn, candy and other movie snacks. It was a small gesture, but they were so happy. That moment carried them through the harder weeks to come. Unfortunately, she died shortly after. Later, her husband came to the unit and brought the movie back to me with a card thanking me for my kindness.

The other memorable experience was a family who had gotten a neuromuscular diagnosis for their first child while pregnant with their second. There was a possibility the new baby would have the same diagnosis. We performed testing early and waited for results. It was a Friday. I was picking up dinner for my family when I received the call that the result was positive. I stopped on my drive home to personally call the family and share the news, not wanting them to wait one minute more to know. It was one of the hardest calls I had to make, not just as a provider, but as a mom. I shared the result with the mother and we just cried. I reminded myself what I would need as that parent, and worked to provide it. We successfully treated this infant and she is doing very well. 

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

Everyone on our team is exceptional and irreplaceable. We celebrate big and small victories. We have fun, even when things are stressful. Dr. Jennifer Kwon always encourages me to push myself and further hone my skills. She is supportive and acknowledges my value in the success of our programs and our patients’ care. I am so grateful to her.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

I celebrate the happiness and growth of our family.  My husband is supportive of the work I do, often dropping his work when I have urgent issues to attend to. Our kids bring us so much joy and I am proud of the little people they are becoming. I am so happy to have both a family and a career.

Inspired by children overcoming challenges

Claire Johnson

APP Spotlight: Claire Johnson, Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatry, 2275 Deming Way Clinic

Tell us about yourself.

I earned my doctorate as a psychiatric nurse practitioner from the School of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I met my husband while pursuing my Bachelor of Science in the School of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. We have an adorable 3-year-old daughter who loves to play outside, rain or shine. When I am not chasing after her, you can find me in my garden with my dog. 

Where did you grow up?

I have been a Wisconsinite all my life. I love experiencing all the seasons here, particularly the fall. Growing up in the small town of Lake Mills, I learned the importance of supporting the school district and the community you live in.  

How did you come to UW Health?

When UW Health created a new role for a psychiatric nurse practitioner to be part of the child and adolescent consult and liaison service, I jumped at the opportunity. I was excited to help further develop this scope of care for advanced practice providers. It’s a small but amazing outpatient practice.

We work with children and adolescents—kids who are suicidal and/or have depressive episodes. We’ve also recently seen an increase in children who have eating disorders.

What inspires you about your profession?

Children are remarkably resilient. They face unbelievable challenges and traumas. They inspire me to do this work. I believe in uncovering who a person is and wants to be and supporting them in their development. 

What have your patients taught you about yourself?

I have learned to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. I am grateful for my family and the ability to have a career as well as dedicated time for my daughter. 

In a few words, how would you describe your coworkers and team at UW Health?

My coworkers at 2275 Deming Way Clinic and American Family Children’s Hospital are dedicated and caring. They all have been welcoming and a fun team to be a part of. 

Outside of work, what did you accomplish this year that makes you proud?

I am biking to work! Wish me luck as I am hoping to continue this in rain, snow or on 100-degree days.