Meet the Collective: Hi, Sarah.

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Meet the Collective is our series highlighting the great people who make up Collective Health. Today, we’re sitting down with Sarah Petersen, RN, BSN, MSN, who is Director of Care Operations based in our Lehi Office.

Where are you from?

Originally I am from Idaho, although I think I have lived in Utah long enough to say I’m officially “from” Utah.

What happened in your career that led you to Collective Health?

I’ve had quite a varied background in terms of the number of settings I have worked in as a nurse. I’ve worked in the clinical space as well as leading different care management programs including inpatient, outpatient, and in-community. All of these experiences drove me to Collective Health because I was impressed with their commitment to their values as well as their acknowledgement of social determinants of health.

In the places I had previously worked it was difficult to really move the needle on improving an individual’s health because we often didn’t have a holistic picture of their health or circumstances. We were certainly able to treat physical symptoms in the clinic but to really improve someone’s health and adequately care for them you need to consider their life outside of the clinical setting. Collective Health’s approach keeps the patient at the center of everything we do which enables better health and care in the long run.

What excites you most about where Collective Health is going?

We are at a very exciting critical moment of growth for the company. It’s so rewarding to see employers catch onto and appreciate what we are doing. It’s also encouraging to see them actively pursue new ways of providing benefits to their employees with the recognition that the status quo is just not good enough.

What’s an example from your career that really showed to you that we needed to think about and approach healthcare differently?

When I was working as a frontline nurse in cardiac and ICU, we had a patient that continued to come back into the hospital. She was a “high utilizer,” meaning she was regularly accessing emergency care when preventative care would have probably been a better approach to addressing her issues.

But it was in caring for her, particularly when we would go to discharge her, that I realized we were asking the wrong questions. We would ask if she had a ride home? She’d say yes. We would ask if she had someone to care for her? She’d say yes. We were giving her excellent clinical care but she kept coming back with recurring issues. It was only after asking further questions that I learned we were actually discharging her to her car that she lived in along with ten cats.

Knowing that, it wasn’t realistic to think she wasn’t going to come back. She had recurring infections that were brought on by her circumstances. That’s when I realized we needed to think about her care more holistically and that I wanted to work in healthcare in a way that allowed me to consider/address those challenges. Once we could understand the life constructs she was contending with we were able to better help her in ways that would ideally reduce her ER visits, like finding her a place to stay that wasn’t her car, or helping with rehoming her cats. And while those things are not part of traditional healthcare, they allowed the care we provided her to be more effective in the long run.

What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?

Patience and listening are the two things I have come to value most in my career. They go hand in hand — you can either listen with the intent to understand or you can listen with the intent to respond. People often are telling you what they need and frequently just want to be heard and understood — it’s more than just listening to the words they say but truly understanding the message behind the words is even more important.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?

Travel — there’s not a place I wouldn’t want to go. Travel brings together so many of my favorite things — meeting new people, trying new foods, learning about new cultures. The next place I want to go is Asia or Australia.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does that inform what you do today?

As a child I thought I would grow up to be a bull rider. That’s not quite close to being a nurse. My dad was a rancher and we rodeoed as well which is probably what inspired that particular career aspiration. Despite having a family background in ranching, my father really instilled in us that we could be anything we wanted to be when we grew up.

I’m fortunate in that I have always been able to think of my future and my career in terms of what I wanted to do, not what I had to do. But I think my career aspirations of becoming a bull rider came to an end when I was 12 and got bucked off by a small bull, got trampled, and actually had a wonderful time doing it but my shirt ripped down the front and I had to run back to the shoots holding it together. I think that’s probably when I realized maybe being a nurse would be a better fit for me.

What’s your favorite quote?

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.” -Helen Keller

Hidden talents or lack of talents?

I am a baby whisperer. I have seven children of my own, so that gave me a lot of experience.

Fun fact about me:

I make killer cinnamon rolls, all of my kids love them.

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