Nurse Practitioner Sara Rittenhouse brings experience in several areas, including substance use disorder services, pediatrics and women’s health.
She earned her doctoral degree in Advanced Practice Nursing from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in spring 2020, graduated into the COVID-19 pandemic and began a journey in public service.
She believes that education is often the best medicine.
It’s a critical cornerstone of effective health care, from battling chronic conditions to supporting mental health needs. Sara Rittenhouse is determined that her patients have as much knowledge as possible.
“I love the education piece of primary care,” says Sara, who joined Western Sierra Medical Clinic in summer 2021. “So much of being a nurse practitioner is education and holistic care. You need to learn how to treat your body.”
Each patient is unique. Some are dealing with mental health issues while others have multiple chronic conditions. A cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.
“We have to be able to adjust our approach to health, I want to be whatever they need,” says Sara Rittenhouse about the patients she serves. “The goal is to help patients with their pressing issues, preventative care and future health outcomes.”
For some patients, the immediate and long-term needs are straightforward. A minor illness or injury. An annual checkup. Or maybe scheduling a preventive screening, such as a colonoscopy or mammogram.
Others are more complex, says Sara, who sees patients across the lifespan from children to seniors as a primary-care family practitioner at the Grass Valley clinic.
“Every interaction is a chance to make a difference” she says, “and you never know the impact you might have.”
But education helps patients understand their health challenges, the road to better health and how a chronic condition – such as diabetes – can lead to others.
“Some patients have been out of care for years,” communication and consistency play key roles in helping patients improve their health, Sara says. Detailing the importance of annual checkups and routine screenings to address and prevent potential health issues as early as possible.
Before joining Western Sierra, she was a Family Nurse Practitioner and Registered Nurse in Massachusetts focusing on community health and access to mental health care services for youth.
Sara was born and raised in California – earning her undergraduate degree in Molecular, Cell and Developmental biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She started work in education and then found her calling in health care.
She is among a few providers who offer services through Western Sierra’s medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program that provides support and treatment for those struggling with addiction.
“The opioid crisis is not something that only affects ‘other people’, it is hitting our neighbors and family members young and old across communities,” she says.
“It’s a huge problem and does not discriminate,” she says, adding that access to behavioral health is also an important part of treatment – and health care overall. “You can’t provide quality health care without addressing behavioral health needs.”
Sara Rittenhouse also practices women’s health at the Grass Valley clinic, and the specialty could expand to the Penn Valley clinic. She feels strongly that women should have easy access to services, from family planning and preventative care to prenatal visits.
Away from work, she embraces an active lifestyle “enjoying the beauty of the Sierras on weekends,” she says, from biking and hiking to kayaking and yoga. She also likes to cook, travel and spend time with family, including her nonagenarian grandfather who lives in the region.
She says that her time in New England was valuable, but after years away she decided to return to the Golden State, landing in Nevada County. “The Yuba River is truly a treasure of the west.”