She rode with a broken hand, battling bronchitis, brutal head winds, pouring rain and temperatures that sometimes topped 100 degrees.
By the time Anita Schiltz finished the 2016 Cascade 1200K, a grueling bike ride around Washington that required participants to complete four qualifying rides, she'd covered 801 miles and climbed 40,000-plus feet in four days and three nights. And when she crossed the finish line in triumph, having successfully tested the depths of her own resolve, she hugged her husband – and wept.
As an avid outdoor enthusiast whose passions range from mountaineering to ultra marathon trail running, Schiltz thrives on personal challenge. As an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) at KVH Internal Medicine, Schiltz thrives on helping patients focus on wellness and manage chronic conditions.
"I knew it was the field for me. I've always enjoyed the complexity of internal medicine and working with older adults," she says. "It's perfect for me. It was my destiny I think."
The youngest of twelve children, Schiltz grew up in rural Iowa in a town where "people took care of each other." Early on, her parents assigned Schiltz and her sister to help care for shut-ins. "She had three. I had three," Schiltz recalls.
As a teenager, her first job was working as a nursing assistant in a nursing home. When she was done, she vowed she'd never do it again and by the time she graduated high school she was eager for new frontiers.
"I was so ready to get away," says Schiltz, who spent a year studying art at a Catholic college before transferring to the University of Iowa to study nursing.
After graduation, she became a traveling nurse working in intensive care units, critical care units and emergency rooms and landed in New York City where she completed a master’s program in geriatrics at Hunter College and became an ARNP specializing in internal medicine.
A year later, she came to Seattle to visit a friend.
"That same weekend I got a job and a house in Seattle," she says. "It was like the door blew open." She joined the Mountaineers and the Boeing Alpine Climbing Club and climbed Mount Baker the first year she was in Washington. When she met her husband Steve and learned he built bike frames, was an avid mountaineer and had cycled across the U.S. and Europe, "I knew he was the right one for me," she says.
And when her husband, now a "semi-retired" attorney still building bike frames, decided he wanted to leave Seattle she agreed – if she could find the right job. "I was going to take a job in Wenatchee. This came up and it was perfect," says Schiltz who was at The Polyclinic in Seattle before joining KVH Internal Medicine. As a mid-level provider, she collaborates with Dr. David Jackson.
The biggest reward in her work? "It's helping people find that mind-body-spirit balance," she says. "Medical jargon can be so confusing. Breaking it down for people so they have better health literacy makes me smile.
"I'm always struck by how grateful people are that I explain chronic disease management to them and help them identify their barriers to self-care. I want to help them reduce risks, be informed about life choices and get them up to speed on medical wellness."
Beyond her role at KVH, she's enthused that she and Steve are living in Ellensburg. There's the appeal of living close to what she calls "our favorite mountain range – the Stuarts" and ready opportunity to head outside on a regular basis for golf, gardening, cycling or something more adventurous like back country skiing.
"A bad weekend," she says with a laugh, "is when we have to stay inside."