Nurses making a difference in public health


By Rhonda Bletner - [email protected]



Disease Interventional Specialist Lynn Corwin, RN, left, and Nurse Practitioner Sarah Miley, APNR, right, appreciate their sexual health and prevention work for the reward of helping patients in nine counties and for the ability, granted by a career in public health, to give those patients their time and attention.

Disease Interventional Specialist Lynn Corwin, RN, left, and Nurse Practitioner Sarah Miley, APNR, right, appreciate their sexual health and prevention work for the reward of helping patients in nine counties and for the ability, granted by a career in public health, to give those patients their time and attention.


GALION — This year, National Nurses Week, traditionally celebrated from May 6 to May 12 each year, was expanded to a month-long celebration to recognize the contributions and positive impact of America’s nurses. The American Nurses Association selected the theme “Nurses Make a Difference” to honor the varying roles of nurses and their impact.

That impact is apparent in the roles of the nurses at the Galion City Health Department.

Nurse Practitioner Sarah Miley, APNR, and Disease Intervention Specialist Lynn Corwin, RN, also represent the varying roles of nurses.

Prior to working at the health department Corwin was a pediatric nurse for 10 years. She loves babies, she said, but she wanted to branch out into public health — being able to reach out to the public more than was possible in the hospital.

Miley began her nursing career as a medical surgical nurse for three years and then was a traveling nurse. She also worked at the Richland County Public Health Department before going back to graduate school. In addition to the health department, she works at a Title 10 family planning clinic: KNOHOCO Health Services.

Their public health careers are unique from many nursing positions.

They work as a team to address sexual health concerns. While they address all sexual health concerns, they took some time to discuss syphilis as an area of concern.

And yes, it is rewarding work.

“I love it,” said Corwin. “It’s like an investigation and we need detective badges because we have [sexual] contacts and we have to track them down so they can get tested and treated. We’re trying to stop the spread.”

“We’re there to help them. We’re there to treat them,” added Miley. “Sometimes they’re scared. We have a way of telling people and explaining what we do. We have a very basic, honest conversation with them.”

“We wear jeans when we’re in the field,” Corwin said, “I think people get nervous when they see people in uniform. It makes people feel more comfortable. We tell them it’s all confidential; their information is not going to get out.”

“Right now, we’re having an increase in syphilis cases in Ohio,” Miley said.

Ohio has seen a 45.9% increase of syphilis over a three-year period as of December 2021, and congenital (birth) cases in Ohio are up 152.6% as of 2019.

“We don’t hear much about syphilis anymore, but do you know a famous person that died of syphilis,” Miley asked.

It was Al Capone.

“Sometimes when you mention syphilis people think about Al Capone, and syphilis is kind of considered something of the past. But we are seeing an increase, or uptick, in cases. Pregnant women are typically tested during their prenatal care for syphilis either one, two or even three times; but unfortunately, we’re seeing women that are going throughout their pregnancies without prenatal care. They’re showing up at hospitals and they’re delivering, and they haven’t had any prenatal care, and they’re testing positive for syphilis and their babies are being born with it as congenital syphilis.”

Pregnant women are a particular concern for the nurses. Untreated mothers can have stillbirths, premature births or babies born with defects.

Miley said there are more syphilis cases and they’re being linked to more people using illegal substances. Syphilis is not transmitted by drug use; it is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but women who are using drugs are less likely to seek prenatal care.

Sexually transmitted diseases: syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, HIV are all the focus of Corwin’s and Miley’s work in their prevention program.

“[Syphilis] is treatable,” Miley said, “but sometimes people don’t know they have it because the first thing you get is a sore, but the sore doesn’t hurt. So, if you have a sore, you might not know you have the sore because it doesn’t hurt, or it might be in a place you don’t see it. The sore goes away, and you don’t get treated for it, and then years later you have neurological manifestations from the syphilis and that’s what Al Capone died of.”

Corwin said the next stage is a rash and often people aren’t concerned when, in reality, it is secondary syphilis.

Syphilis is treatable with bicillin, a variant of penicillin.

Corwin treats patients in the community.

“We do outreach,” Corwin said. “If there’s a positive case, we’ll go to their home or another health department. A lot of times we’ll meet them at another health department or a doctor’s office.”

They administer the bicillin because not all doctor’s offices carry the medication, but Galion City Health Department has a STD/HIV Prevention grant and that grant allows them to provide STD care in Region 2, nine counties: Ashland, Crawford, Erie, Knox, Huron, Marion, Richland, Seneca, and Wyandot.

Do they find their work rewarding?

“I loved pediatrics because I love babies. But to me, this is also rewarding because I’m not only helping babies, I’m helping the public. I’m helping more people in public health than I was just in pediatrics,” Corwin said.

“I probably echo what she said, Miley said.

“I’ve always been drawn to helping people that are under-served, people that are kind of not always getting the care that they want when they go into your traditional office setting….I like to sit and talk to people and in a setting like this or other types of public health setting, you tend to have more time where you can explain things to people so they actually understand what is going on. It’s important to spend the time to explain what they have going on, and you can see that lightbulb kind of click on. For me, that’s rewarding. I like the patients I serve to feel they’re valued and that someone cares about them,” she concluded.

Disease Interventional Specialist Lynn Corwin, RN, left, and Nurse Practitioner Sarah Miley, APNR, right, appreciate their sexual health and prevention work for the reward of helping patients in nine counties and for the ability, granted by a career in public health, to give those patients their time and attention.
https://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2022/05/web1_DSC_0339.jpgDisease Interventional Specialist Lynn Corwin, RN, left, and Nurse Practitioner Sarah Miley, APNR, right, appreciate their sexual health and prevention work for the reward of helping patients in nine counties and for the ability, granted by a career in public health, to give those patients their time and attention.

By Rhonda Bletner

[email protected]