background image
Robert Wood Johnson
Beverly O'Shea, MSN, RNC, oversees 14 nurses. She loves
working with families and has taken care of some of the current
generation of mothers since they were children. O'Shea relates
to the patients on a deeply personal level.
"I grew up without health insurance," she says in her small
office. "I'm first-generation German American. I know what it
is like to not speak the language."
O'Shea was in high school when her father landed a job as a
maintenance supervisor at Rutgers University, finally getting
health insurance for the family. Before that, they saw a doctor
only when they were sick. And to get the doctor to take care of
them, her mother bartered: she cleaned a doctor's office, and he
ministered to her sick children.
So affordable health care is not hypothetical for O'Shea and
her colleagues. They see patients regardless of ability to pay. And
the numbers, from last year, are representative of poor neighbor-
hoods: 94% of patients were below 200% of the federally
defined poverty level. In addition, 40.7% of
the patient population was uninsured. Just
over half, 50.6%, had Medicaid, 6.7% had
Medicare, and only 2% had private insurance.
As staggering as those statistics are, they
represent real people who have come to
expect a certain standard from the clinic. Hill
pauses in front of a certificate honoring the
clinic for earning Level 3 patient-centered
medical home recognition, a federal designa-
tion. The framed commendation graces a wall
in the conference room, the same place where
the staff wrapped Christmas presents they
had collected for the community. Hill pulls up
photos on her iPhone of the gift-wrapping
frenzy. It's the one time she allows a measure
of pride--and that's for how the staff worked
together to ensure that patients had a good
Hill is already planning staff activities for
the holidays--as well as thinking about how
she'd like a larger building and additional
services. "It's about getting the care they need," she says of the
community. "I want to increase patient access and to integrate
mental health into primary care."
During a long interview, Hill mentions a couple of times that
one person doesn't make a show happen. Unprompted, O'Shea
mentions it too, saying perhaps that's true, but she adds that one
person "can make it that much better." And what Hill has done,
by leadership, is continue to champion those who have less and
ensure that they are as entitled to health care as anyone else.
Not everyone who walks into the clinic was always in need.
Hill recalls a patient who told her, "Last year, I had a husband,
a job, a house, and health benefits. This year, I have nothing."
If only those sobering words didn't resonate.
"I am extremely worried that health care is uncertain," Hill
says, which is as far as she will jump into the politics of the
subject. "Health care should not be a privilege. It is a human
"I always tell the staff: `Treat people
the way you want to be treated,'" says
Sandra Hill, executive director
of the
Eric B. Chandler Health Center. "And
just because you are treating the most
vulnerable or underserved doesn't
mean less quality care."