GREENFIELD — When three of Sherry Gehring’s family members passed away within five years, it forced her to examine her priorities.
Gehring, chief nursing officer at Hancock Regional Hospital, is retiring effective June 9 after more than two decades of working at the Greenfield hospital. She’d experienced the loss of her mother, her husband and her mother-in-law, and decided to focus on her personal life.
“It makes you evaluate, where am I, what am I doing,” she said.
Story continues below gallery
Born in Kentucky, Gehring graduated from Noblesville High School before studying to become a nurse at Wishard Hospital, now Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Ball State University and her master’s degree in nursing from Loyola University — New Orleans.
She worked for many years in Michigan as a nursing manager, before coming to Hancock Regional Hospital to serve as a managed care coordinator. The position served as a link between insurance companies, patients and physicians.
Soon enough, however, Gehring was asked to fill in on the nursing side and found herself in a nursing management role. She has been the chief nursing officer for 10 years.
Dr. Michael Fletcher, chief medical officer at Hancock Regional Hospital, has worked with Gehring since 2004 on the hospital’s executive leadership team. She is a special person with a wealth of expertise and knowledge, who was always collaborative, he said.
“She is a pleasure to work with,” he said. “As a peer within the executive team, she will be a huge loss.”
The responsibilities of being a nurse have changed tremendously in the span of her career, she said. There’s a larger focus on nurses being independent from physicians and thinking on their feet; hospitals focus more on evidence-based practices and research, she added.
When she began working in the ICU as a newly graduated nurse, they mixed their own medications on site and only interacted with the pharmacy; technology has introduced smart IV pumps, electronic documentation and other devices nurses must know how to operate.
In addition, many procedures have become less invasive over time.
“We often are able to get a diagnosis much faster,” she said. “Some surgeries are outpatient, now patients might stay a day at the hospital, if that.”
As the chief nursing officer, Gehring indirectly oversaw 300 people. She said the biggest challenge over her career was to attempt to close the gap between nurses and physicians and get them to work as more of a team.
She is the best chief nursing officer Steve Long, CEO of Hancock Regional Hospital, has ever worked with, he said.
Gehring has an unusual ability to build relationships between people with different perspectives and different opinions, Long said.
Now that she’s retiring, she plans to move to Florida, where she hopes to become a court-appointed special advocate for children going through court cases.
“It saddens me that not all children have the same opportunities,” she said. “They don’t have a voice, and people aren’t willing to step up and be their voice.”
Gehring also loves to travel — she has been to Kakuda, Japan, which is Greenfield’s Japanese sister city. She hopes to visit Cuba, Spain and the Caribbean once her retirement begins.
She leaves her position with mixed feelings. She was excited to see Hancock Regional Hospital moving toward the population health model, which places more emphasis on preventative care than treating people who are already sick, she said.
“It’s very emotional,” she said. “The truth is, I love my job. I love the people I work with.”