Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Cheryl Field Is Helping To Change Our World

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First, I wish they had told me how “exposed” one feels when putting content into the public space. Even as an “expert” in senior care, I questioned several times If I had anything of “value” to say. Sharing chapters with colleagues helped me overcome my imposter syndrome moments

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cheryl Field.

Cheryl Field, a seasoned nursing professional with over three decades of experience, specializes in post-acute rehabilitation, with specialization in analytics, compliance, quality, and reimbursement. Cheryl has served in many roles from clinical director to principal product manager. Cheryl is a dynamic speaker, having presented at state and national conventions, simplifying complex healthcare challenges through engaging stories and analogies. Certified in Rehabilitation Nursing and AI from MIT, Cheryl holds degrees from the University of Rochester and Boston College, fostering a successful career in senior care alongside her 30-year marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Ted, and raising their three children.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

As a young girl I had a close experience helping my maternal grandmother with nightly routines as she battled with end stage emphysema. She lived a 3-minute walk from my home. I became passionate about senior care, working as a nurse for 14 years then moving into clinical informatics. Providing tools to be used by nurses- that’s passion at scale

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

Growing up in a single parent household with two older sisters I don’t remember having too many books around. I do remember being fascinated when I received a Bible from church. The pages were so thin and there just seemed to be so many stories contained within this massive book. I remember feeling the frustration that I couldn’t read it from beginning to end as I thought a proper book would be read but in fact found it rewarding to just read short stories at a time. To this day when I pick up a book, I don’t always read it from beginning to end. Especially a resource or a guidebook I tend to hop around and gather the content based on what I need and where I am at the time. This knowledge of myself had an impact on my book Prepared! A Healthcare Guide for Aging Adults. I wanted to support adult children who get that unexpected call that says your parent is in the ER, or your parent needs a nursing home. I wanted them to be able to turn right to that part of the book, so I could meet them where they are at and give them the guidance they need.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made was applying to the wrong college, getting accepted and a scholarship, and realizing on the first day I was at the wrong school. In my day we did all college applications by hand. I had heard of a great school for undergrad pre-med in Rochester NY- while I meant to apply to RIT, my guidance counselor gave me the packet for the U of R. — Of course, I found out very quickly I was at exactly the right school! I changed from pre — med to nursing in my freshmen year, ran track for 4 years and met my lifelong friend Cinthia Levi. Our family lives have been entwined ever since. 25 years later Cinthia’s daughter Rachel would also make a similar online application selection mistake and end up at SNHU only 20 minutes from my home in NH. The joy of the mistake continued, and honestly this was the best mistake I’ve ever made.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Prepared! The healthcare guide for aging adults was written to offer guidance to America’s 60 million plus seniors over the age of 65 as they move in and out of the health care system. This guidance was written for either the senior, or their advocate which may be a spouse, partner, adult child, or close friend. As a nurse who has worked for 20 plus years in the acute and post-acute health care system, I became keenly aware of the gaps that exist in information flow around the transition from one care setting to another. I designed a system to close those gaps out of necessity when I was advocating for my own loved ones and thought that there was tremendous value to offering this practical book to any human in their later years of life. None of us want to think about a sudden change in health but the reality is with age comes change and I wanted to get seniors prepared. Before I wrote the book, I looked for a similar resource on the market and I was shocked that there was not one resource that offered honest, practical step by step guidance. It literally keeps me up at night. The needs of seniors require a system of advocacy, if I can teach my system to those in need the ripple effect to society goes beyond better care outcomes. Informed advocates make the work of healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, and care managers easier! Right now, the burn out rate among healthcare workers is at a level of concern we have not seen in 30 years. Informed advocates are empowered to leverage the care they want and need from the system. Resulting in less waste, billions of healthcare dollars spent on unwanted care, or complications from gaps in services, service delivery errors. Informed Advocates, improve quality, impact staff and family satisfaction, and drive down wasted healthcare spend.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

I use a lot of storytelling in my teaching as I think that storytelling helps people identify and see their story in yours. One of the most compelling stories in the book is actually the most simple. While I was still writing my own father was hospitalized for COVID. I share a story of identifying a medication error through my system. It’s interesting in that the health care provider had done the right steps of doing a medication reconciliation with me during the first day of admission to the hospital. And if I had not followed my own system but had simply believed that because the medication reconciliation step was completed that all of his medications would be administered accurately for each day he was in the hospital, this mistake would not have been found. Only because I exercised my system of daily medication order reviews with the care team did I identify that his blood thinner was being missed. I won’t make you wait to read the book to find out that there was a happy ending to this story. Although my loved one was required to be hospitalized for an additional three days due to this medication omission. The point of the story is that as an advocate we must follow our systems in order to ensure the best care outcomes for our loved ones. And I teach how to ask these questions with empathy and respect to the provider and with accountability on the part of the patient. Health care is a partnership and as a patient you need to go in with your own personal accountability for your health outcomes and leverage the practitioners around you to achieve that outcome.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

As a nurse one tends to be the resource that family and friends will go to when they need help with one of their loved ones. This is true for me, and I think all nurses can identify with being the subject matter expert in the family. While I had written a table of contents back in 2010 after advocating for my mother through the last six months of her life I had never moved forward with actual content for the book. In 2018 There was a moment where I was spending multiple days and multiple hours on the phone giving very specific, repetitive and systematic instructions to a loved one. You can imagine in a noisy house with adult children and my husband and the dinner hour and homework and all of the chaos that comes with your everyday family that being on the phone was somewhat disruptive. My husband had the idea that I might write down the questions and the instructions that I was continually reviewing with this loved one. That actually was part of the seed behind the book. It took a few more years, and an empty nest for me to have the time to make that aha moment a reality.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Very soon after the book was published a colleague reached out looking for some help with a loved one. The situation was urgent. I needed them to level up very quickly and I was traveling- so I asked them to grab the eBook for 99 cents, read it and call me in the morning. The next day, when we met, they were right where I needed them to be. I was able to guide this person, they worked quickly, and the situation had a good ending. They wrote a review online expressing how in the middle of an urgent situation Prepared delivered on its promise to bring calm, confidence, and direction to those moments in life where we feel shocked and out of control.

To add to this question, I would like to read a testimonial from Jim Berkland the Editor of McKnight’ Long Term Care News. Jim was an early reader for me and has this to say: “Cheryl Field has created an invaluable tool for individuals who could use a hand navigating through the incredibly complex world of healthcare as an older adult. And face it: Who among us isn’t racing toward that status with each and every day that passes — if we’re not there already. As they say, growing old is not for the weak. Well, it’s also not for the unprepared. This book is excellent preparation for what a huge percentage of us will face at one time or another.

Knowledge is indeed power, and the consumer needs all the help they can get when healthcare issues are in question. Cheryl capitalizes on her 30-plus years as a top nurse to bring us insider knowledge. At the same time, she unfortunately also knows this world as an unfortunate family member, doubling her street cred to present a publication like this. In brief, this book is valuable to anyone.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The root of the problem does have a few solutions. Healthcare technology companies and interoperability standards are paving the way for better care coordination and collaboration of care details. These investments will help to move information between providers seamlessly putting less ownership and responsibility on the patient. As people begin to have more and more of their health information stored on other devices like watches the aps there will be a need for more sharing of data. The HIPAA regulations written to keep health information private, make sharing data between organizations which are neither business associates nor covered entities challenging. For example, the local food panty where someone might go for key nutritional support, would benefit from knowing dietary restrictions coming from a healthcare provider. Those details are only shared today if the person speaks up and communicatees there need. Food banks who understood the needs of their local population they serve could advertise for those needs in food drives. In the meantime, technology and connections between doctors’ offices, and hospitals are making some progress. Dentists, chiropractors, smart devices, and community organizations remain disconnected, some using paper-based records leaving a gap that humans must fill.

OK I’ve got this one this time on this side.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I have served in many leadership roles throughout my personal and professional lives in the 56 years I feel very privileged to have lived. It has occurred to me that leadership is like glue that dries clear. When done properly it connects the individual pieces of a project together. When all of those pieces stand at the end you cannot see any of the glue but you realize that without it the successful project you have built would have been impossible. A good leader lets those around him or her shine, builds them up, and helps them to become the empowered person they choose to become. When teams of people have been led by good leaders, they can continue to function independently of that leader being present. This is true for the short term of course as the role of leadership is essential and human capital is constantly in flux. Go on get out there be the glue, bring people together, but at the end of the day let their work their words and their wisdom be what the world sees as a result of your humble servant leadership.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Before starting Prepared! I took a writing course which helped me think through my fears, goals and strategy. First, I wish they had told me how “exposed” one feels when putting content into the public space. Even as an “expert” in senior care, I questioned several times If I had anything of “value” to say. Sharing chapters with colleagues helped me overcome my imposter syndrome moments. Second: Editing takes longer than writing and is harder! I was always starting at the beginning of the book, rather than getting to the end. A system for editing emerged. It took 6 months of 530 am working sessions. Which brings me to my third lesson- train for a marathon or a ½ marathon before you write a book. The lesson here is the need for a training program, and if you trust the plan, do the daily training, the day of the race you will be fine. I am glad I trained and ran a ½ marathon the year before writing prepared. The morning working sessions were the program I needed to trust. When It was time to hit submit, I was ready. Fourth lesson is never limit yourself, you can do anything you put your mind to, as my Mom always said. I want to get a copy of Prepared in the hands of every senior, or their adult child! If I could, I would make Prepared! required reading for your driver’s license- or required reading before you get your Medicare card. Saying out loud, I want all 60 million Senior Americans to have a copy of Prepared is a BIG goal! The only person who can limit me achieving that goal is me. The last lesson I have known from other areas of my life, but needed to remember is that there is a season for all things. Planting seeds in spring, nurturing plants, harvesting in the fall. Getting one’s message out to the world, promoting and sharing one’s passion, will come with seasons. For some reading this will be the seed planted, and many months later circumstances in their life will draw them back to the resources available in Prepared. Its my job to plant seeds, nurture those following, and be the resource they harvest when my assistance is needed.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I mentioned this earlier, my mother Patricia Diamond always told me that I could do anything that I put my mind to. These are really empowering words for anyone to hear as they are growing and forming a sense of their own self and identity. It gave me a yes mentality and an overwhelming sense of optimism that I could really figure out anything that life through my way. Moms are the best! Although we don’t often tell them how great they are until later in life. I was honored to advocate for my mom at the end of her life and the lessons I learned from that experience are found in Prepared! When I come up with some crazy idea like empowering nurses to write their stories and transform the healthcare system, I hear her voice saying — Hell yes! You can do whatever you put your mind to!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

It is on my live it list to meet Oprah! The things in her that she has overcome in her life, and the social impact she has made inspires, empowers and gives me chills just thinking about it. I grew up watching her show after school. At the time I was both fascinated by her show and the content, I was more drawn to her and her weight loss struggles and success, and struggles and success. I struggle with obesity, and the impact chronic obesity has had on my self-esteem. Oprah in all phases of her life continued to do amazing, generous, impactful work despite her personal struggle with weight management. From the day she wheeled that red wagon of “fat” to her work with weight watchers, I have admitted her tenacity. I wrote about this in my chapter in the international best seller You Can, You Will in my chapter “Overcoming the wounds of obesity; A journey towards self”. Oprah tuns 70 January 29th, 2024. I have thought about sending her a copy. Then imposter syndrome holds me back. Having her read Prepared! -Or have this be part of her book club would be remove an item from by bucket list! When I visualize it I am Hanna Olivas from She Risers Studios with me and we relish in the “pinch me” moment. Seriously It would be my gift to Oprah, one of the 60 million Americans over 65 that keep me up at night!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can reach me on my website where they can sign up to receive a copy of my month newsletter Insights for Seniors, and see what events I will be attending. They can follow my “voice” on linked in and Facebook. I bring my authentic self to my social media so followers will see my family posts, and can join me live Tuesdays at 7 EST where I talk all things Medicare, Managed Care .

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Cheryl Field Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.