Authenticity is a core value of Cassie McCullough, NP, whose genuine compassion and desire to deliver good care are obvious. “Being able to hold yourself accountable is extremely important. You’ve got to be honest about what you know, what you don’t know and what your limitations are—to take ownership of that and be honest with the patient. I believe that builds trust in the relationship.” While readily acknowledging she doesn’t have every medical solution, McCullough is willing to look for answers, or to send patients out for specialized care. “I have no problem referring people to specialties, or bringing challenges to my attending provider and asking, ‘What do you think about this?’ Because we’re constantly practicing medicine. You’re not an expert at it ever. It’s a long, ongoing practice.”
Cassie started work at Patterson Primary Care this January, and loves being part of a team where questions, curiosity, and collaboration are the norm. Her strong suit is caring for older adults, but she loves women’s health, as well; she received her master’s degree as a Nurse Practitioner from Colorado State University Pueblo, pursuing a dual program specializing in Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult Gerontology Acute Care.
Growing up Cassie wanted to be a veterinarian. She entered Colorado State University’s biomedical sciences program in Fort Collins, but when she started working at a vet clinic, she knew she was not in the right line of work. Pivoting slightly, Cassie pursued her certification as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and got hired in a nursing home. She reflects, “something just clicked into place, and there was much more reward for the work!”
After shadowing her aunt, an OB/GYN nurse practitioner, she loved it, further cementing her call to nursing. She enrolled in Colorado Christian University’s then brand-new nursing program and was amongst their third graduating class of nursing students. Cassie knew she wanted to be a nurse practitioner but decided to gain some hands-on, real-world experience before going on for her masters. For about five years, she worked as an RN in the Denver area at Littleton Adventist Hospital until she felt comfortable and competent with her skill set to pursue her terminal degree from CSU Pueblo.
When asked about where she draws inspiration for candid, considerate care, McCullough cites mentors from NP school as well as her aunt who was also an Nurse Practitioner (NP) and exemplified above-and beyond, sacrificial care. “My aunt was adored by her patients; they would move and still drive over an hour to see her. She had a great reputation.” It wasn’t long ago Cassie and her aunt were talking on a nearly daily basis about questions pertaining to women’s health, and Cassie is unafraid to text her former med school mentors with questions, as well.
“I’ve been fortunate with my mentors. They modeled good patient-provider relationships. It was not ‘I say, you do’ but instead they gave their patients autonomy. As providers, we’re here to offer the recommendations but ultimately, the patient needs to be the one to direct the process. I think there’s usually more than one way to do something…and I think it’s important to make patients aware they are the directors of their care and their life.”
Cassie hopes to one day mentor others the way she’s been mentored and trained. “I’m big on teaching. When I was a nurse, I took a lot of Capstone students. I’m not ready for that now; I’m still too new in my practice, but eventually I’d like to turn around and be a mentor for those just starting out in their careers. I’m glad I work at a place where I can ask questions, and I hope that one day I can return the favor.”
Cassie will soon be a newlywed! She and her fiancé, who love traveling, were engaged in Norway and will tie the knot in the Dominican Republic. The couple have several dogs and wouldn’t mind owning a few more. They enjoy gardening and being outdoors. Cassie comes from a large family and loves reunions. “I’m a big family person; I believe that’s where a lot of your values come from.”
Cassie McCollough, NP is accepting new patients at Patterson Primary Care. To set up an appointment, call 970.298.6601 or visit https://www.sclhealth.org/locations/medical-group-patterson/