Meet Michelle Smith: Supporting Bariatric Patients at Every Step

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Michelle Smith, LVN, didn’t start her career with the goal of becoming a nurse—it’s a dream she discovered when she saw the difference nurses could make in their patients’ lives.

“I worked in a family medical clinic in a small East Texas town where we used to live, managing the front office,” Smith said. “Seeing the importance of nurses in people’s lives made me think it was something I wanted to try. So, I decided to apply for nursing school.”

The deadline for nursing school applications was approaching, but Smith didn’t let that stop her. She submitted her admissions packet on the day it was due.

“It was kind of just one of those lucky things,” she said. “I got in and then started that August.”

Building a Bariatric Nursing Career

Today Smith is a Clinical Care Specialist for SurgeryPlus. She works primarily with bariatric patients. Smith is passionate about her work, but she didn’t go into nursing knowing that she wanted to specialize in bariatrics. Her path to her current role started with family.

Smith’s first “job” after finishing nursing school was caring for her grandmother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“I had knowledge about medical care, so I decided to take care of her for a while,” she said.

Eventually, Smith accepted a position working at a bariatric clinic, walking patients through the sometimes emotional and lengthy bariatric surgery process. It was there that she discovered a passion for this patient populationand saw how good guidance could help them succeed.

“I loved every minute of being a bariatric nurse,” Smith said. “I learned so much. I built so many relationships with bariatric patients. I’ve been given the opportunity to see so many patients go on to weight loss success. It has been great.”

After the pandemic, Smith decided it was time to make a change from bedside nursing to “something different.” That’s when she found her current role with SurgeryPlus. It allows her to continue guiding patients through the bariatric surgery processsomething she has always loved.

“I worked alongside SurgeryPlus for several years in my previous role, so I knew about what the company was about and what it stood for, which I loved,” Smith said. “I wanted to be able to utilize my skills and knowledge. This role came up, and it was just a blessing.”

Making a Positive Impact

Smith knows she and her fellow Clinical Care Coordinators and Nurse Navigators can have a positive influence during difficult and challenging times.

“Surgery is a vulnerable time in someone’s life,” she said. “Especially when it’s bariatric surgery. There is still a stigma around doing it this way. Some people say the patients are taking the easy way out. But I’ve done this for over 10 yearsit’s not easy. It’s hard.”

As she continues to walk beside patients on their bariatric journeys, Smith is also enjoying how her career is growing with SurgeryPlus.

“I have built relationships here that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, whether those are with doctors in another state or through being a resource for our Care Advocates,” Smith said. “I’m glad to be here.”

Connecting with Members

In walking through the bariatric surgery journey with members, Smith says she finds inspiration in the way they can tackle the issues surrounding bariatric surgery, including a variety of specialist appointments and other steps that are necessary to have bariatric surgery.

Depending on the patient, those steps can include lab work, visits with a dietitian, appointments with a cardiologist, a sleep study and more.

“They must work super hard both before and after the surgery,” she said. “Our members really give this process their all. They put everything they can into it.”

“I love having the opportunity to be a support for them during the process,” Smith added. “I’m here to answer their questions and offer guidance during the process. They do the challenging work themselves.”

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