At age 6, Keri Sheffield, BSN, RN, Miss Rodeo America 2018, began competing in rodeo competitions for children. She continued competing into her late teens, learning and perfecting cowgirl skills such as pole bending, barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying.
An animal lover who was born and raised on a 20-acre farm in Sunnyfield, Fla., the Florida-based ICU nurse had aspirations of becoming a veterinarian from a young age. In addition to honing her horseback riding and rodeo athlete skills, Sheffield also spent her youth caring for horses, dogs, chickens and donkeys on her family’s farm and shadowing her veterinarian uncle and cousin.
Although a career in veterinary medicine seemed only natural, a missionary trip to Costa Rica in high school with a church group changed her plans.
“In the remote villages of Costa Rica that we visited on my high school missionary trip, I saw the tremendous need for medical care there, as in many other parts of the world,” said Sheffield. “The lack of healthcare in some places is surprising. I spent time with one little girl who had never seen a Band-Aid before.”
Embarking on a nursing career
Soon after that visit to Costa Rica, Sheffield decided to pursue a degree in nursing with the goal of participating in more missionary trips. After graduating from high school, she set her sights on attending a new nursing program at Berry College in Rome, Ga., and graduated with her BSN.
In Sheffield’s last semester of nursing school, students participated in a service learning project and traveled to Costa Rica, which was her second trip to the country. This time her work was at the National Children’s Hospital in San Juan for two weeks. The students worked in the oncology, general surgery and burn units.
“Traveling to Costa Rica again seemed like a sign for me to continue to pursue my goal of going on medical missions to help others,” Sheffield said.
After earning her BSN and RN license, Sheffield landed her first nursing job in the emergency department at a Florida hospital. She loved the ED but realized she had aspirations to become a certified nurse anesthetist, so she segued into a career as an ICU nurse because CRNA schools require a minimum of two to three years of ICU experience prior to applying to their programs, she said.
“My ultimate goal is to earn my doctorate and become a CRNA, then volunteer with a medical mission group such as Operation Smile to serve others as a CRNA for facial reconstruction surgeries for facial deformities,” Sheffield said.
Competing in and winning Miss Rodeo America
While working as an ICU nurse, Sheffield decided to jump back into the world of rodeo competition and won Miss Rodeo Florida in 2017, making her eligible to compete at the national level for Miss Rodeo America. She competed against 30 other state winners and won the national title in December 2017 in Las Vegas. Contestants were judged on their horsemanship skills, equine and rodeo knowledge, poise and personality.
During her reign as Miss Rodeo America 2018, Sheffield travels extensively around the U.S. to fulfill her duties. She serves as an ambassador for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and appears at rodeo performances around the country, along with numerous other special events, “promoting the Western way of life” and making sure rodeo continues to be an active and growing sport, she said.
Sheffield’s additional duties can vary depending on each rodeo event’s organizers and its local association. However, additional tasks she undertakes as the winner include having the honor of presenting the U.S. flag at events, signing autographs for fans, meeting and greeting organizers and attendees in her ambassador role and promoting the sport of rodeo.
Appreciative of the platform that winning the competition has given her in providing opportunities to meet many people as a public figure, Sheffield is grateful for having the chance to be of service to others, she said.
“Showing genuine kindness, and Christ-like love to others is something I value,” Sheffield said. “Smiling at people you meet, extending a helping hand such as opening a door for someone can make a difference to someone. Life is best lived when you’re giving selflessly to others.”
Her recent participation in a rodeo where the participants were special needs children is one example of the rewarding experiences she has had as a result of winning the title of Miss Rodeo America, Sheffield said.
“Helping others not only helps them, but it also helps you,” she said, citing the value of reaching out to others to lend a helping hand and displaying human compassion.
As an animal lover and avid horsewomen, when Sheffield is not traveling as Miss Rodeo America, she enjoys spending time riding her own horse, being with her family — including several nieces and nephews — and caring for the many animals in the family barn.
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