Shelly Bish talks so fast, and so passionately, it’s difficult to keep up with her as she describes her work, her inspirations, her faith and the vast scope of what she can do. Just a few weeks ago, Bish was named top Practitioner of Baptist Health Medical Group in 2019. (For scale, there are 273 APRNs in the Baptist Health System.) She’s an advanced practitioner registered nurse and what she can do is nothing short of astonishing.

“I’ll perform a pap smear, I can serve as a primary care provider, treat ear infections and help patients manage diabetes,” she said, in her rapid-fire delivery from the cafeteria of Baptist Health Fishermen’s Community Hospital in Marathon. 

Oh, she can put in sutures, too, as well as take biopsies and even perform orthopedic knee injections.

We’re seated in the cafeteria, which isn’t her normal stomping ground. She and Susan Baker, also an ARPN, run the Baptist Health Convenient Care Clinic. The clinic is next to Iberia Bank and McDonald’s right off Overseas Highway, in Marathon’s 1st Professional Center.

She was awarded the honor because of her excellence in patient care and her involvement in the community, or what she likes to call “bridging the gap.”

“It’s all about meeting the needs of the patient and keeping abreast of what those are,” she said. “For example, it’s difficult for women in the Middle Keys to get an appointment with an OB/GYN. I will perform a pap smear.”

In another instance, a Marathon mom couldn’t get an appointment with her young daughter’s pediatrician. Bish saw her as soon as possible.

“She didn’t have to travel to the mainland and she didn’t have to walk into an urgent care center,” Bish said. “That gave the mom peace and comfort. It establishes trust. It meets people where they are at and that’s paramount because it allays fears.”

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Baptist Health Convenient Care Clinic normally focuses on acute care — things like a bad case of congestion or flu. But in Marathon’s case, the situation is unique.

Bish has been in nursing for 30 years specializing in pediatrics. She graduated with honors from D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. She spends extra time furthering her education, and is now set to pursue her doctorate in nursing. 

Why not become a doctor?

“Well, I think one of my patients said it best. He sent me a thank you note a few months ago. It said, ‘You have the heart of a nurse and the brains of a doctor,’” she said, smiling.

She does admit, though, to having a special passion for treating children. She has four of her own children, one of whom battled cancer as a teenager — at the same time she was completing her second degree and working fulltime. She began caring for one of her most cherished patients, a child with a severe genetic disorder, when the girl was just an infant. She became a part of the family, as she required round-the-clock-care. When the child passed, it was a devastating loss but didn’t impact her faith. 

“My strong faith got me through,” she said.

One of Baptist Health’s core missions defines joy as “… internal fulfillment of caring for others … ” 

“That’s something I identify with strongly. My work brings me internal fulfillment. It brings me joy. I try to live what I love and love what I live.”

The Keys Weekly had one last question for Bish. What does she want Santa to bring her for the holidays? 

“A massage. Or maybe a trip to Disney. I love Disney,” she said.

Baptist Health Convenient Care Clinic is located at 5701 Overseas Highway in the 1st Professional Center, Marathon next to Iberia Bank. It is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

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