When Cheryl Holsworth was preparing to move back to the San Diego region after a hiatus in Michigan, her former boss at Sharp Coronado Hospital had a word of advice.
She recommended Holsworth look into the possibility of taking a position overseeing the nursing staff with Sharp Memorial Hospital’s bariatric surgery division. Bariatrics is the medical term for weight-loss surgery.
“She said ‘Cheryl, I think this is a specialty that would be a good fit for you because of the way you are very compassionate with your patients and very sensitive,” said Holsworth, a senior nursing specialist.
“I took the position about 10 years ago, and I just have thoroughly enjoyed it,” Holsworth said. “I truly love my job. It is my career, and I don’t see myself doing anything else.”
The Torrey Highlands resident oversees 27 certified bariatric nurses, the largest such staff at one location in the nation.
Her service as well as her knowledge of treating patients undergoing weight-loss surgery and her contribution of an article on bariatric treatment to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Journal led to national recognition.
Holsworth was honored by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery as the 2018 Distinguished Certified Bariatric Nurse. The award is given to only one nurse per year.
“The improvement of health and quality serves as my inspiration and motivation,” she said recently in Sharp Health News.
A native of Toledo, Ohio, Holsworth moved to San Diego in 1993 with her husband, who had taken a job here in his field of medicinal chemistry.
She worked at the Coronado hospital until her husband took a position in Michigan, where they lived before returning to San Diego in 2007.
Taking the bariatrics position required Holsworth to educate herself to the issues that relate to obesity, and the treatment and care required for patients for whom weight-loss surgery is a step toward restoring them to good health.
“I really initially had to learn why (obesity’s) a disease and why surgical treatment was a necessity for so many individuals,” Holsworth said. “Once I realized the challenges of individuals losing weight, I felt the need to educate others so they would be much more compassionate and understanding about individuals that suffer from the complications from obesity.”
Severe obesity is a disease that damages the body, and bariatric surgery should be understood as a legitimate treatment for restoring a patient’s hormonal balance.
“The public is not very aware (of obesity issues), so I feel like I need to be an ambassador and advocate to the public and our medical providers so we treat these patients with great dignity,” Holsworth said.
She said that because of misconceptions on both the part of patients and providers, only about 1 percent of those who could benefit from weight-loss surgery are having it done.
Sharp is doing its part by performing about 175 to 185 bariatric surgeries per year, she said. The majority of patients are hospitalized for one to two nights, and most of them return to work within a couple of weeks, she said.
Sharp’s commitment to the bariatrics program, Holsworth said, is evidenced by the support they provide enabling nurses to become certified.
Also, the hospital system sponsors the annual Sharp HealthCare Obesity Crisis Conference, which is scheduled this year on May 31 at the Liberty Station Conference Center in San Diego.
“Our team here is really compassionate and they really have a lot of clinical expertise,” Holsworth said.
“We’re very proud of the care that we provide to our patients,” Holsworth said.