By Emma Woodham for The Island Eye News
After traveling the world for twenty years as a nurse in the United States Navy Nurse Corps, Sharon Harper’s final posting brought her home to the Lowcountry. Harper, a native of the Isle of Palms, grew up on Carolina Boulevard, only a short distance from Breach Inlet.
“This has always been home. Growing up, I could walk down to the bridge at Breach Inlet, and we used to go crabbing. We would catch the biggest blue crabs under that bridge,” recalls Harper.
Like many who have grown up in this area, Harper has seen many changes over the years.
“I remember when Snee Farms was considered the boonies, and I remember when there was no Isle of Palms connector.”
Following high school at College Preparatory in downtown Charleston, she attended nursing school at the Medical University of South Carolina. She graduated from MUSC with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Later in life, she obtained a Master’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. Once Harper graduated from MUSC, she decided to join the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps.
“Joining the Navy was the best decision I ever made,” Harper says. “And, as luck would have it, I was first stationed in Charleston.”
During her time in the Navy, Harper was stationed at naval hospitals in California, Maryland, and Puerto Rico and even served on a hospital ship during Desert Storm. When her time in the service came to a close, she requested Charleston for what is commonly referred to as a ‘twilight’ tour.
“The Navy tries to give you a posting of your preference for your last tour before retirement, and I requested Charleston.”
In 2006, Harper retired from the U.S Navy Nurse Corps as a Lieutenant Commander and soon settled back into life as a resident of the Lowcountry. She worked as a Home Health nurse and then as Director of Nursing for a Trinity Mission Health & Rehabilitation after her retirement, but soon realized that her passion lay elsewhere.
“My heart gravitates towards older people. I’ve got a real soft spot for them. It is truly a passion for me.” Driven by her eagerness to help others, Harper founded Coastal Patient Advocates.
Her mission is simple: educate and inform clients while helping them navigate the complicated healthcare system.
“Advocating for patients can be as simple as taking them to the doctor and simply being their eyes, ears, and voice. Many people go to the doctor and when they leave, they may not even remember everything that was talked about,” explains Harper.
Harper points out that having a registered nurse as a patient advocate can be beneficial because medical training helps an advocate aid patients and sometimes even suggest alternative treatment methods. She hopes that her years of experience and training can be useful for others.
“If you don’t have medical knowledge or a medical background, you may not know the right questions to ask.”
Harper now resides in Mount Pleasant, but she still enjoys spending time on the Isle of Palms. To her, nothing compares to a quiet walk along the shoreline.
“You’ve got to stop and take a look around you. If you just take a walk, there is beauty all around, but there is always something special about the beach.”
Coastal Patient Advocates can be found online at coastalpatientadvocates.com or by phone at 843.696.6830