Empowering Patients to Make Positive Lifestyle Changes

Meet Elizabeth Simkus, a nurse practitioner in the Rush Prevention Center
Elizabeth Simkus

I'm a nurse practitioner in the Rush Prevention Center, and I partner with patients to empower them in lifestyle modification to improve health. We do a deep dive into nutrition and physical activity, with additional attention to sleep, mental health and wellness, and substance use. 

Lifestyle change prevents, treats, and reverses many of the chronic conditions that are leading causes of morbidity and mortality in our country, such as heart disease and cancer.

Primary care providers and other specialists refer patients to the Prevention Center for weight loss or after the patient has received a new diagnosis such as pre-diabetes, diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, or other cardiometabolic illness. I also see patients after they have had some of these chronic illnesses for decades.

The best part of my role is that I have the time during visits to take a deep dive into lifestyle to identify opportunities to optimize how our bodies function. I heard a lifestyle health-related podcast recently compare these deep dive conversations about lifestyle to "sitting around the modern campfire." I love campfires, and I love conversations.

During the deep dive, I work collaboratively with patients to develop a personalized plan that works for them. As the patients' health coach, I meet with them in-person or virtually as frequently as the patient needs to keep up the motivation and progress forward. Our clinic also has a private Facebook group to provide engagement, education and motivation in between the one-on-one visits.

It is tremendously rewarding to see my patients’ progress, and follow-up visits often include little dance moves and air hugs/high fives.

Progress takes on many forms: weight loss, decreased waist circumference, improved blood sugar control/A1c or other diagnostic testing. Non-scale victories are also discussed. These could be things such as increased energy, better sleep or being able to buckle a seatbelt on an airplane. In addition, we discuss challenges faced by the patient and consider other tools beyond lifestyle changes that can help reach the patients' health goals.

Bottom line, I am here to provide the care, support and coordination needed to make sustainable lifestyle changes.

Related Stories