Sheila Maxwell has been a nurse practitioner at McKinley Health Center since 1995. She grew up in the rural Champaign area and is the oldest of nine children. After her initial undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin and the birth of her two children, she thought it was time to pursue her true career interest. Maxwell went back to school and earned an associate degree in nursing from Olney Junior College, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, and a master’s degree from UIC. Previously working in hospitals, clinics and schools, Maxwell now enjoys her duties as a women’s health nurse practitioner and ob-gyn sonographer for the Women’s Health Clinic at McKinley Health Center.
Did you always want to be a nurse practitioner?
No, I wouldn’t say always. I knew when I married that I wanted eventually go back to school. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. After we had our first child, I thought, well this is so neat. I want to keep doing this. As the oldest of nine children, I knew I didn’t want to have or raise nine children. I chose to go to nursing school so I could be an obstetrical nurse. Additionally, nursing is a very flexible degree that works well with having a family.
What kind of work did you do before McKinley?
I was as an obstetrical nurse for the maternity department of St. Anthony Hospital in Effingham for 20 years. The last eight years of that time I also worked full time at Marshall Clinic as a nurse, surgical assistant and sonographer at an obstetrician/gynecologist’s office. In 1992, I returned to school to become a nurse practitioner because I was frustrated with my job as an office nurse. I decided I was either going to return to college to get my degree as an advanced practice nurse or return to the hospital full time. I thought that if I were going to earn an advanced degree, I should get on with it, because I wasn’t getting any younger.
I have been happy that I returned to graduate school. I am credentialed as a ultrasonographer, a women’s health nurse practitioner and a certified nurse midwife (although I am not employed as a midwife).
My favorite job was being an obstetricial nurse, but there comes a time in your life when staying up all kinds of crazy hours is not as easy. Working as a nurse practitioner at McKinley Health Center is a very rewarding and satisfying career.
What is your favorite part of working with students?
The students are very stimulating. They come from a large variety of cultures and geographical locations, and they are very motivated to be healthy. Someone comes in with a problem and she gives you her piece of the puzzle. I give her more pieces. And then, doing an exam and further diagnostic tests, I can usually figure out the answer, but sometimes I refer her to another health-care provider. I enjoy teaching my patients to be good owners of their bodies and stewards of their own health. That is the most gratifying and challenging part of this job. I think that all of us at Women’s Health (Clinic) really like taking care of young women.
What kind of activities do you enjoy in your free time?
My husband and I have large extended families that take up a very big piece of our free time even though our own children are grown. There’s not a week that goes by that doesn’t involve something with family. I also have two cats that require – and I enjoy – giving a lot of my time to. I love to read and usually take in two or three books a week. I like to walk. My husband and I enjoy traveling when we have free time. I also like to cook recipes that I can be a little creative with. I like all kinds of music but especially traditional Irish folk music.
What would you say is the one most important thing someone can do for his or her health?
Take care of it. You have two very important commodities – your brain and your health. One may have a wonderful education and many material possessions, but if you don’t take good care of yourself and lose your health, then everything else you do is either not going to matter or become much less satisfying.