Energy and excitement sparkle like gemstones when Sheila Evans talks about her work. Her career evolved from a front-line oncology nurse to a director role with several hospitals, including the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Sibley, and the Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust in England as part of a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center engagement.
When the opportunity arose to serve as Chief Operating Officer of the NSABP Foundation, Inc. in Pittsburgh, Evans was initially a bit nervous but ultimately thrilled to take on the new challenge. The organization’s mission is to design and conduct clinical studies to improve cancer treatment and change the standard of care. As COO, this was Sheila’s first foray into a non-hospital role but she soon realized that a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) through UNH Online was the perfect training for her new job.
Evans details her course-acquired skills in evidence synthesis, statistics, epidemiology, business planning, and the clinical practicum as critical components of the training that resulted in an exciting change in her career path. She believes that the scholarly focus of high-quality UNH faculty and rigorous nature of the program provide “contemporary knowledge” for today’s health care environment and catapulted her career to a new level.
“While the DNP curriculum broadened my perspective with elements of organizational development and the business of health care, my background in nursing enables me to influence the patient experience. The benefit of integrating nurses into this environment is that they bring the human touch to all aspects of an organization.”
Evans misses the camaraderie and supportive infrastructure of a hospital but enjoys forging policy and nurturing a unique balance between business and health care. Using her nursing background as a springboard, Sheila creates connections across disciplines to improve organizational understanding and to make informed decisions on the business side of the oncology field.
With the onset of COVID, the environment of hospital work is rapidly changing. Accustomed to close, daily interaction on the job, Evans explains that nurses must explore ways to recapture the inherently social nature of their work.
“I expect to see permanent changes to the traditional ways we have cared for patients and nurses are well positioned to design these new systems. COVID is changing the health care world forever and this is an opportune time for nurses to play a role in taking patient care to a new and different place.”
Given a propensity to push beyond her comfort zone, it is no surprise that Sheila loves to travel. “My husband and I are like two jitterbugs; we frequently plan trips to explore different parts of the globe.” Their current plans include a visit to Italy when public health circumstances allow.
Unable to imagine a time without service to others, Evans describes her long-term personal goals: to support and teach the basic skills of reading and writing. “As a former literacy volunteer, I know that being able to read can change people’s lives and open doors to new possibilities.”
Whether championing the patient or the illiterate adult, Evans approaches each day with a warmth that is reflected in her winning smile and an unfettered joy in her work.