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Igniting Human Understanding: Evan Sheaff

Daily wisdom: Lessons from a pup

Dogs have an extraordinary gift for patience and living in the moment. In a professional setting, being fully present is about more than just physical presence—it’s about giving undivided attention and focus to the work at hand. This lesson has become a cornerstone of Evan Sheaff’s daily approach as NRC Health’s Director of Implementation.   

“Two invaluable lessons I’ve learned from our chocolate lab Norah Jo are patience and communication,” Sheaff explains. “There are so many times to practice patience in our world, and Norah Jo is a great example of that. My wife and I both work full days, so when we get home, she’s excited, she wants to play, she wants our full attention. And I have to remind myself that she’s been very patient all day, waiting, so it’s my turn to be in this moment with her, to really connect with her.” 

Sheaff explains that he has also spent a lot of time in his career trying to build his communication skills. “For example, no matter how articulate I am, or how much I master the art of the English language, it doesn’t matter to a dog,” he says. “I’ve had to learn her unique and personal communication method.” He describes it as understanding her love language. “She doesn’t want to sit on the couch when we get home. Her love language is being out and running and having fun and horsing around in the backyard. Understanding that helps me stay centered in the moment with her and truly be connected.” 

From the beginning

Sheaff always knew he wanted to work for an organization that was mission-based and focused on changing the world for the better, as he puts it. “That led me to healthcare,” he explains. He started at CHI Health in Nebraska and learned how a health system worked. “I did everything from high-level strategy to developing individual personalized patient relationships. I learned from so many perspectives. That really helped me fall in love with the work.” 

Sheaff moved into several roles within that health system. After roles in public relations and marketing, he moved into operations running OB-GYN clinics across the state. “That really taught me not just the why but the how of what we were trying to accomplish—which is to provide incredible care and to treat people with compassion and kindness to make the world a healthier and better place,” he says. 

Sheaff explains that healthcare is complicated and confusing, but says that he believes there is tremendous opportunity for positive change. Throughout his career, he has developed a strong mission connection, which is what drew him to NRC Health.

My draw to NRC Health was really based on two things: a mission to help the healthcare system change for the better, and the desire to operationalize that mission, which is to care and connect with people,” he says. “I was drawn to the ways in which NRC Health helps organizations by connecting them to the best insights and information directly from the people that they care for, in the communities they serve.” 

Positivity and possibility

Sheaff joined the NRC Health team as a Customer Success Manager in 2019 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when healthcare systems were navigating extreme challenges and adapting daily. 

“It was a challenge trying to be proactive and anticipate what was coming, because we didn’t quite know,” he explains. “We worked to leverage daily insights to help advise and support decision-making. It was everything from how visitation policies would work, to how we were going to structure our parking lot, to how we could operationalize virtual appointments. There was fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Our partners had incredibly hard days, weeks, and months.” 

During that time, one of the most significant things Sheaff says he witnessed was the power of the human spirit. “Not only the frontline care teams, but every person we interacted with was just completely driven and motivated to do the best they could for their patients,” he says. “My admiration of people’s willingness and commitment to do amazing things for their fellow humans is what kept me positive.”  

The lesson, he says, is that what might at first seem impossible is absolutely possible and absolutely achievable.  

Disconnecting to reconnect

For Sheaff, time away from work is time spent with his family and friends at a family cabin on the lake.  

“When we’re out there with family and friends, we’re in an environment where the intention and the purpose is to spend time with one another,” he says. “It’s an environment that is peaceful and calm, absent of distractions and interruptions.” Along with reading, hiking, and throwing the stick to Norah Jo, Sheaff hits the Burwell Rodeo each year, an event he hasn’t missed in 29 of his 30 years. “I’ve been going to this rodeo since my grandparents took me when I was very young,” he says. “It’s a huge, fun family event that we look forward to every year.” 


The Igniting Human Understanding series shares the personal experiences and passions that influence and shape our approach to humanizing care.

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