RISK MANAGER FOCUS
An Artistic Vision of Risk
After a near-death
Sheiner added more
focus and creativity
into her role as a risk
manager and an artist.
By Katie Dwyer
In 2000, with a two-week vacation on the horizon, Janet Sheiner decided she wanted to do something different, something “undeniably upbeat and outside of my normal experience.” Her “normal experience” at least in the professional portion of her life in those days, was doing utilization review (UR) for an HMO.
Sheiner was always drawn to difficlut tasks, but the role was starting to wear on
“I understood insurance and health care, and I thought I could make a niche
for myself in that world by doing the hard stuff,” she said.
“I understood that UR is an important part of keeping health care affordable and
protecting members from having unsafe or unnecessary procedures, but it can feel
like an antagonistic role by definition, and it wears on you after a while. Essentially,
my job was handling denials of coverage — although we didn’t call them denials.”
“We would take these small boats out to the islands, which were protected for
the birds, and usually we’d anchor just off the coast and have to swim to shore.
Once we got there, the parent pelicans would take off, and we’d have to wrangle
the babies, band them and weigh them. Then we’d go back two weeks later to see
if they had gained or lost weight,” she said.
On one such trip, Sheiner chased after a particularly fleet-footed pelican until
she found herself at the top of a gravelly cliff face. She lost her footing and began to
slide, grasping at unmoored rocks to no avail, finding nothing to hold on to.
“I was speeding toward the edge and I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ ”
Finally, she came to a halt just a foot and a half from the edge. Forty feet below
her were the rock-encircled, churning tide pools of the Pacific. On that cliff, with
a watery death staring her in the face, she made the decision to turn her career
“That experience helped me put things into perspective. If you realize you’re
doing something with your life you just don’t want to do anymore, it shouldn’t
take something that dramatic to make you reassess where you are,” she said.
Once she returned from the expedition, Sheiner followed through on her
promises to herself, chucking the TV, quitting her job and moving south to San
Diego from Orange County. But her skills and interests still lived in the insurance
industry, so she sought ways to capitalize on them in a more positive way.
“I took about six months off, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I still
liked insurance and helping people navigate it. I didn’t want to abandon it; I just
had to find a different way in,” she said.
Again, not shying away from hard work, Sheiner eventually found her way
by building an insurance company for a chiropractic and acupuncture practice,
writing policies to extend coverage to
people who otherwise may not have
considered the treatment.
“It felt good because I was extending
benefits beyond what was normally
available, rather than denying them,”
Though the feeling was a welcome
change of pace from her previous
position, Sheiner learned toughness
and perseverance from her days doing
• A near-death experience led to a
life and career change.
• Sheiner’s positive outlook drives
personal and professional success.
• Her creativity lends itself to
effective risk management.
“I understood insurance and
health care, and I thought I
could make a niche for myself
in that world by doing the hard
— Janet Sheiner, VP, risk management and real
estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.
“Lung Xing,” by Janet Sheiner. This artwork is one example of how her life changed after a near-death experience. PHOTO:JOSUE CASTRO