From WebMD to what people are saying on Twitter, there’s so much information out there about healthcare today. “But how do you know what’s truthful, what’s non-biased,” questioned Sharon McKinley, director of client services for Health Dialog. With the abundance of information that people are exposed to every day and the complexity of the healthcare system, now more than ever, Sharon believes people facing illness need support and guidance to find the pathway forward, such as what is offered by the Health Coaches on Health Dialog’s Nurse Advice Line.
After a childhood experience where Sharon witnessed first-hand a condition that was difficult to diagnose and the effects it had, she understands the importance of helping guide people on their healthcare journey. That’s what led her to become a nurse and join Health Dialog nearly 20 years ago.
As a child, Sharon saw the impact illness can have on people and how healthcare professionals can support them when there’s uncertainty in life. “Nurses can help support individuals when they’re sick so they see the pathway ahead. It may not be easy, but there are support systems and people to help you navigate the system,” Sharon said of why she wanted to become a nurse. “I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.”
At Health Dialog, she’s been able to do just that, starting out as a Health Coach with our Nurse Advice Line in 2003. “As a Health Coach, we listen to people’s symptoms and guide them in the right direction,” Sharon said. “We enhance provider relations, not by diagnosing the member, but by helping them know what questions to ask to understand their condition and treatment. We can also provide them with additional support and resources so they can get what they need.”
Sharon started her career at St. Joseph’s Hospital in New Hampshire, while earning an associate’s degree in Science from New Hampshire Technical Institute and becoming a certified nursing assistant. She went on to become an RN and serve the hospital for three years, working on different floors and moving up to a nurse manager, then working for a family physician’s office as a nurse coordinator/triage nurse before joining Health Dialog where she’s seen similar success.
While at Health Dialog, Sharon has moved up from a Health Coach to a Health Coach resource, supporting other Health Coaches, to a community leader, managing up to 23 health professionals before serving as a client operations specialist and manager of client services, then moving into her current role of director of client services in 2018. Sharon even earned a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management with support from Health Dialog. Along the way Sharon has been able to help members navigate the healthcare system. “We help people understand their symptoms and the resources available, what avenues there are to support them and help them get the care they need,” Sharon explained.
Another buzz phrase in the industry Sharon noted is social determinants of health. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, social determinants of health are conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality of life outcomes and risks. This can include financial issues and access to quality healthcare services. “It’s a blessing for individuals that we can help them overcome barriers,” Sharon commented. “We can help people get support with their medications, if they’re not able to afford food, if they lack transportation, when there are language barriers we have translation services and can help them talk to their doctor. We offer support systems.”
In Sharon’s current role, she supports Health Dialog’s Nurse Advice Line clients, ensuring that all of this guidance is being provided to their members and that we’re meeting or exceeding their expectations. As Sharon embarks on a new chapter of her life now that her son Austin is grown and they have adopted their dog Daisy, a Mastiff/Labrador Retriever mix, she reflects back on how she needed help finding the pathway forward as a child and now wants to help people find their pathway for whatever they’re dealing with and show them how to move forward. “You never know what pebbles people have in their purse, never know what they’re dealing with,” Sharon concluded. “At Health Dialog we help them address their particular issues and challenges.”
Name: Sharon McKinley
Title: Director of Client Services
Tenure with Health Dialog: 20 years
Education: Associates degree in Science from New Hampshire Technical Institute, immediately followed by passing the New Hampshire State Boards for Nursing to become a registered nurse, and a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management from Granite State College
Family: Son, Austin
Hobbies: Flower gardening and volunteering at the local food pantry