Jean Ann Schwark wasn't nervous on her first day of work at Payson's Primary Care Specialists last month. The nurse practitioner said she has faith in her abilities and feels she understands the medical needs of Payson's residents.
She's lived in the Rim county for about 10 years with her husband and five children, but she's new to Primary Care Specialists. Schwark has only been there two months, but said she feels at home.
Her take on health is tough. Namely: be responsible for your own body. She said patients can expect empathy from her, but she will not feel sorry for them.
"Most illnesses can be prevented and even if they can't be, certain lifestyles will make the situation better or worse," Schwark said.
She is one of three professionals in the practice and said they all have similar philosophies.
"The people here are the best I've ever worked with," she said. "Patients aren't seen as an inconvenience or a number. We treat them with dignity and respect. A common weakness in the healthcare practice is that you get too busy to really care. Here, we return calls and we listen."
Nurse practitioners are recognized in Arizona as independent medical care providers. They must have a master's degree or a PhD in nursing and can order tests, write prescriptions, request specialist consultations and diagnose and treat most common illnesses.
Schwark has been training for this position for 21 years. She was a clinical nursing instructor for years and has lectured in schools of nursing. She has received numerous awards including a grant for decreasing breast cancer in female minorities. Another big accomplishment for her was passing the National Certification Exam in the 100th percentile. This feat implies smarts, but Schwark said it does not take a genius to figure out the major health problems in Payson.
Diabetes, obesity, lung problems and cardiovascular disease are common afflictions in Payson, she said.
"But maybe the biggest problem," she said, "is teenage pregnancy. Gila County has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state."
Schwark said she is not pro-abortion, but said the only way to prevent abortions is to prevent pregnancies.
She claims to be just as conservative as anyone else in town, but said she is more realistic than most people about teen sex.
"Abstinence is absolutely the best option," she said, "but if that's not happening, we need to make certain kids are on birth control. If a girl comes in here for it, we're going to get it for her."
Schwark is a prevention supporter for other problems too. Any patient who comes to her is going to hear about how to stay healthy or get healthy.
Schwark pushes mammograms, colonoscopies, loss of excess weight and tries to get patients to stop smoking.
"I'm having a great experience here so far," she said. "But there is a lot of work to be done with people's attitudes. They have to know that we will help them, but that good health is up to them."