From an early age, Cheryl Holsworth knew her legacy would be one of caring. As a child, she remembers watching the medical drama Ben Casey on television and tending to her sick dolls. She credits her mother, also a nurse, for showing her how to turn her passion into a career.
Today, Holsworth is a senior nursing specialist at Sharp Memorial Hospital, working closely with patients undergoing bariatric (weight-loss) surgery. Holsworth’s passion for her patients and contribution to her field recently earned her the title of 2018 Distinguished Certified Bariatric Nurse, awarded by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery to only one nurse in the United States each year.
“Many bariatric patients are stigmatized by their weight,” says Holsworth, who believes it’s her life’s mission to help all caregivers provide weight-sensitive care. “It’s important for me to be an advocate and establish trust, so patients feel comfortable opening up about their experiences.”
Severe obesity is a disease that causes damaging changes within the body, and the condition should be treated as such, Holsworth says.
“Bariatric surgery is not just about having a smaller stomach; it changes the hormonal influences inside the body,” says Holsworth. “If someone had heart disease, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a pacemaker or open-heart surgery, but many individuals see weight-loss surgery differently.”
Breaking down barriers means educating both patients and providers.
“We believe that we are only treating 1 percent of the eligible population who would benefit from care,” Holsworth says. “By removing the stigma associated with weight-loss surgery, we can help more people.”
In addition to caring for patients and advocating on their behalf, Holsworth also works as an educator, trainer and mentor to nurses. She is also a vocal proponent of continuing education. Sharp Memorial Hospital has 27 certified bariatric nurses, the largest grouping at one facility in the world.
“The improvement of health and quality outcomes serves as my inspiration and motivation,” says Holsworth. “When people ask me what I’d do if I weren’t a nurse, it’s always the same answer — there is nothing else I’d rather do. I truly enjoy my job. This is who I’m meant to be.”
To learn more about bariatric surgery options, visit an upcoming free informational seminar.