Reprinted from the May 2016 edition of the Clear Creek Firestarter
It can be argued that Evelyn Newton’s decision to become a nurse was, at least in part, a fashion choice.
“My friend’s mom was a nurse, with the white hat, and the gown, and the cape,” smiles Evelyn, an intake coordinator for Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice. “I loved that uniform.”
Evelyn grew up in wet and woody Scotia, Calif., which at the time was also home to the country’s largest family-owned redwood mill. Hills and trees were in her blood, and Evelyn attained her RN degree at College of Marin in Kentfield, Calif., another town with plenty of both.
“When I graduated, my friend’s mom gave me her cape. I still have it.”
Evelyn gained valuable hands-on experience working in a nursing home before accepting a post in the oncology unit of a small community hospital nestled amid the rolling green hills and lush groves of Petaluma. It was there that Evelyn began her true life’s work.
“They had a volunteer hospice program that ran out of the oncology department, and it interested me right from the start,” she says. “I was the liaison between oncology and hospice. I felt that hospice was really important and, at the time, kind of overlooked. I felt like it was where I needed to be.”
After learning the ropes of a hospice case manager, Evelyn found that she needed to be in Grass Valley, at the foot of the mighty Sierras, working as a hospice supervisor. With each new attainment her understanding of hospice, her belief in its importance, and her expertise in the field increased. In 2000 she earned hospice administrator certification, and she was certified as a hospice and palliative care nurse four years later. As fate would have it, her next move was south, to live and work beneath the scant shade of the palo verde and acacia that cling to the rugged mountainsides surrounding Phoenix.
“We wanted to see what the desert was like,” Evelyn laughs. “I was clinical director for a hospice in Phoenix for 10 years.”
When the craving for cooler climes became impossible to ignore, Evelyn and her husband, Greg, began charting an ambitious northward course. They thought to move their small family to the heart of Alaska’s trackless interior and dwell on the wandering banks of the Susitna River as the owners and operators of a bed and breakfast in tiny Talkeetna, the favored launching point for mountaineers challenging the perilous white immensity of Mount McKinley. Evelyn and Greg were disappointed when those plans fell through, but not for long.
“We figured that Colorado was the next best thing,” Evelyn says. “We moved to Idaho Springs.”
Three years ago, there in the mountain-girt canyon of Clear Creek, the Newtons moved into the 1895 Victorian house that was long home to the prominent Buck family. And just over the piney ridge to the south, Evelyn found a home for her skills at Mount Evans, among people who share her commitment to hospice.
As an intake coordinator, she finds good purpose for all of her hard-won skills. She accepts referrals from physicians and hospitals, compiles information about new patients and schedules staff to admit and care for new clients. Evelyn also provides an essential connection between Mount Evans’ nursing staff and the people they serve.
“I act as a liaison between the field nurses, the patients and their families, and the doctors and hospitals that refer them. It’s my job to make sure everybody has the information they need.”
Serving the citizens of four counties in an area stretching from Rollinsville to Kenosha Pass, Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice can help thousands of residents in a year’s time, many of them uninsured or under-insured and in desperate need of the community donations that make up about 25 percent of the nonprofit’s annual revenue. Evelyn’s function is a critical one that she does very well, and with the area’s senior population expected to double in the next 15 years, her knowledge, talents, and devotion to hospice will only become more valuable to her mountain-area neighbors, especially those living in Clear Creek and Gilpin countie,s which share a single doctor between them and rely heavily on help from Mount Evans.
“Sometimes I miss being in the field,” Evelyn admits. “But we’re such a team here that I still feel like I’m contributing something even if I’m not out there.”
“Last August we moved to Gilpin County,” she says. “We love Idaho Springs, but we found a log cabin in Black Hawk, and that’s always been sort of a dream of ours.”
On her own time, when she isn’t doting on her and Greg’s three children, seven grandchildren, and two cats, Evelyn and her husband are often camping among the hills and trees of their beloved mountain home.
“There’s a different lifestyle up here that we just love. There’s an independent spirit you don’t see in other places. People who live in isolated areas do it on purpose. You meet a lot more characters,” she laughs.
And, like Evelyn, people who work at Mount Evans do it on purpose.
“I couldn’t ask for a better place to work,” she says. “I love the culture, the support, and the people who work here. I love the philosophy and purpose of this place.”