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Payson Public Health Nurse’s Passion for Community

GILA COUNTY- “For a public health nurse, the most important thing is to know the community,” says Rachel Cliburn, Gila County’s new Public Health Nurse based in Payson. “Maybe there are kids in one of our communities who need eyeglasses that ACCHS doesn’t cover. We have to know the need before we can meet the need.”

“Our public health nurses are out hearing from residents across the County—in schools, homes, community meetings, and nursing homes,” says District One Supervisor Tommie Martin. “Their job descriptions run the gamut, from seeing patients in the office to meeting with students in the schools.”

Since she started with Gila County in December 2016, Cliburn has heard from members of the public that she has big shoes to fill.  Cliburn replaced long-time Payson Public Health Nurse Lucinda Campbell, who recently retired from Gila County with 10 years of service. Most recently, Cliburn worked for 12 years as a labor and delivery nurse and was Scottsdale Health Care’s Nurse of the year in 2013. She specialized in high risk ante-partum patients, which she explains are cases in which doctors are trying to keep a woman from delivering. Before that, she worked in both urgent care and endoscopy facilities.

Rachel Cliburn is Payson’s new Public Health nurse. Courtesy Photo

Cliburn grew up in Page, Arizona, and after 15 years in Mesa, she and her husband were ready to move to a smaller town and raise their kids more like how they had grown up. The couple and their three children moved to Tonto Basin in May 2016 and absolutely love it. 

Cliburn has been working hard to get out in the community, make introductions, and gather information about services that may be beneficial. She explains that a key piece of a public health nurse’s role is “interfacing with the public where they are.”

“Everyone has been inviting and welcoming,” says Cliburn. “That’s so exciting to me.” So far, it has been a passion of hers to focus on smaller communities like Tonto Basin and Young. “I’m making myself available to them to get things done,” says Cliburn. She won’t shy away from traveling to make sure residents are getting the services they need or to help a school conduct screenings. She knows too that connecting with residents, students, and other service providers face to face also helps build an important level of comfort. People feel more comfortable accessing services when they’re comfortable with the provider.

A typical day for Cliburn can include administering immunizations and STD tests, time in the schools with one of Gila County’s School Health Liaisons, fielding phone calls, and spending time out in the community at interagency meetings. She stresses that she’s still learning a lot about her job, but is already excited about some additional opportunities for prevention education that she has identified. “I am loving the education portion of my job,” she says. On the office side, she has been tasked with helping further standardize the process of total nursing care and services in Globe and Payson.

Stop by the Gila County Health Department in Payson to meet Rachel or call her at 928-474-7186.

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