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HL20: Cheryl Bartlett, RN—Public Health Advocacy, From Bottom to Top

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, January 16, 2014

Cheryl Bartlett, RN, hasn't been paid as a nurse in many years, but she maintains her nursing license and says she still brings the perspective of a nurse to her job as the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

This profile was published in the December, 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Cheryl Bartlett, RN, hasn't been paid as a nurse in many years, but she maintains her nursing license and says she still brings the perspective of a nurse to her job as the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

"Nurses have a wide range," she explains. "They think holistically about the person and not just about a particular condition, risk factor, or disease. They think about what a person needs from a social determinants perspective."

The DPH is the perfect place for that kind of thinking. As the commissioner, Bartlett is responsible for the work of 10 bureaus that oversee a laundry list of healthcare activities—health and nutrition, community health, infectious diseases, substance abuse, environmental health, research and statistics, licensure, perinatal services, and patient safety. Four public hospitals are also part of DPH.

Her path to DPH was somewhat circuitous. She began her nursing career at Yale-New Haven Hospital in cardiac intensive care, then moved on to Nantucket Cottage Hospital where she says she did every type of healthcare job, including running the dialysis clinic and working as an emergency room and operating room nurse, to moving up the ladder to director of nurses and director of clinical services.

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