Kirstin Curtis, ARNP and owner of Mt. Shuksan Family Medicine and Dermatology, is passionate about giving more in the care she provides. “I’m passionate about preventive care for optimum health,” Curtis says.
Curtis started her own clinic six years ago and has since expanded her repertoire to provide dermatological care including skin cancer screenings, excisions and treatment of many other skin related disorders. Curtis began with a vision of providing a higher level of care to patients and creating a work environment conducive to “having a life” as she describes the ability to be flexible with her schedule. “I wanted to make my work work for me,” she says. “I’m very committed to providing the care my patients want in as unrestricted ways as we can with no judgment on people’s lives.”
In Washington State, Nurse Practitioners can be fully independent of physicians when it comes to seeing and treating patients. They can prescribe the same medicines, do many of the same procedures and treat patients from infancy to old age as family care providers.
Nurse Practitioners are highly educated. They undergo many years of college and must pass national Board Exams in order to be licensed to practice. Nurse Practitioners become a Registered Nurse first then receive a Masters Degree in Clinical Practice before proceeding to their Board Exams.
“I gained a lot of confidence seeing my husband successfully manage his own practice,” Curtis says of her husband, Dr. Robert Curtis’ chiropractic and massage practice. The two practices now share a building.
Wanting the flexibility to spend more time with her three children, Curtis initially started her clinic with four half-days per week when she first opened just over six years ago. This increased over time as she was able. Upon opening her doors, Curtis set out to create a patient environment composed of open listening, comprehensive care and treatment with compassion and sensitivity.
Mt. Shuksan Family Medicine and Dermatology experienced explosive growth. Curtis brought on two more Nurse Practitioners over the next four years and was still able to reduce her own work schedule to three days a week. In addition, Curtis has successfully created an environment of family importance and an atmosphere of openness between patients and staff. Each of the other two Nurse Practitioners work three days a week as well. This ensures that the clinic is open full time while making room for that goal of flexibility and the importance of family time.
“We’re all very committed to creating a connection with our patients in a holistic way,” says Curtis. “It’s about community and family versus just treating the illness.”
Megan Gruber, ARNP, wasn’t even looking for a job when she came to Mt. Shuksan Family Medicine and Dermatology three and a half years ago. As a new mom, she liked the idea of working a more flexible schedule than a full-time position. “I love working with my patients and appreciate the ability to spend more time with them,” says Gruber. “It’s all about what we can do together to make life better.”
Heather Thomson, ARNP, shadowed Kirstin Curtis as a nurse before coming to Mt. Shuksan Family Medicine and Dermatology in 2014. “I’m so excited to work in primary care,” Thomson says. “I love that we get the opportunity to see and treat entire families.”
Thomson describes her shared passion of putting the client first. “I feel like I can spend more time with each individual I see. And I love that we have a well-oiled machine here.”
Rancy Gill, one of the two medical assistants at Mt. Shuksan, says she likes the friendly climate of the clinic that really connects with patients.
Lisa Van Duisen, Certified Medical Assistant, has been with the clinic for over five years and loves the small, patient-oriented atmosphere. She appreciates the diversified clientele and describes it as a connection with compassion. “We take care of you as a person no matter who you are or what the issue is.”
“We have an office full of laughter,” Van Duisen continues as she describes the comradery among all of the staff. “Our patients seem to be more at ease and I think it’s because of that laughter and compassion.”
Rebecca Secrist, the office manager, echoes that sentiment. “We have a small, family-like atmosphere. We play and joke but the work gets done in a very down to earth way. These are really good people.”
Mt. Shuksan Family Medicine and Dermatology began with a passion for the ability to create an environment that embraces life and that is open to all walks of life. That passion has transferred from the staff to the patients they treat. The patients know they have a place to go that is focused on complete and unrestricted care.
Mt. Shuksan is unique as a small practice in Bellingham. Their patients feel part of something more intimate. “Our big passion in this clinic is to help motivate patients to take charge of their own health, improve nutrition, exercise more and prevent illness, instead of reacting to it,” Curtis said. Mt. Shuksan is a small clinic with a big heart and a focus on providing connection with compassion.