After working long hours through challenging shifts, the buzz of hospital life is nothing new to Sarah Howell (Nursing ’15, M.S.N.’17). As the charge nurse and high-risk nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), she helps handle critical situations like birth complications or life-threatening conditions in delivery rooms.
From a young age, Sarah wanted to care for infants right after delivery. “I always dreamed of becoming a Labor and Delivery nurse. I told everyone that I wanted to be the girl to dry the babies off and hand them to their mom after they were born!” she said.
After graduating from PCC, she fulfilled that dream by working in the Labor and Delivery unit at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital (PA). Two and a half years later, she moved to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center (PA) and became a charge nurse in the NICU, another position she had longed for since her preceptorship. “[When I finished] my 6-week preceptorship in the Pediatric ICU (intensive care unit) my senior year at PCC, I was enthralled with critical care nursing,” Sarah said.
Watching a baby leave the NICU happy and healthy after many hours of care is one of the biggest blessings a nurse can experience. “There is nothing like the joy you feel as you follow an infant from a high-risk preterm delivery to the day of their discharge,” Sarah said. “It’s an incredible experience to rejoice with these parents as they watch their infant reach developmental milestones that allow them to be discharged home.”
The education Sarah received shaped her into the nurse she is today. Each instructor’s care and emphasis on a steady work ethic created the basis for a solid nursing foundation. Dr. Maybeth Elliott and Mrs. Rachel Schroder inspired her to have a passion and love for what she does now. “The nursing instructors taught us to go above and beyond for our patients, strive to have critical thinking [skills], and see the whole patient,” she said. “These skills set me apart in my professional setting to be a leader with a strong work ethic.”
“PCC’s nursing program is constructed to show compassion and [deliver] excellent nursing care, no matter who the patient is or what type of background they come from,” said Sarah. “Just as Jesus cared for some of the poorest and sickest people without bias, PCC teaches their students the importance of following Christ’s example.”
Sarah oversees other nurses and ensures they have what they need if problems arise. She also plans patient assignments and handles any complications during a shift. As the high-risk nurse and lead resuscitator, she attends high-risk or complicated deliveries including premature infant births and cesarean sections.
Sarah Howell’s career-defining moment was aiding in the resuscitation of micro-premature twins. “I don’t think I will ever forget the faces of those beautiful small babies or the relief I saw on their mother’s face after the doctor told her they were still alive,” she recalled. “Despite the circumstances of the rushed preparation and speedy delivery, the reward of having two successful resuscitations, caring for these babies for months in the NICU, and seeing them reach their developmental milestones to be discharged home was the highlight of my career!”
Working at a hospital is not without its share of trials, though. Staff faced new and difficult challenges throughout the COVID pandemic. “From limiting the number of visitors in the hospital and the shortage of needed supplies to the uncertainty of the long-term effects on neonates and pregnant mothers, these past couple of years have been challenging and exhausting,” said Sarah. “Although the pandemic has brought a demanding and taxing aspect to the healthcare system across America, I try my best to focus on how I can bring comfort and compassion to the mothers and their infants.”
Each day brings fulfillment and the opportunity to show kindness to others in need. Sarah desires that her patients will have a positive visit and know that they are loved. “Sometimes it’s easy for nurses to have the mindset of a shift being ‘just another day on the job’; however, it’s not just another day for the patients and their families,” she said. “Whether it’s making a cute craft with the baby’s footprints for their parents to have as a keepsake or just sitting down with the mother and asking about how she’s doing emotionally, these small acts of compassion go a long way to encourage and build up these parents.”
Sarah Howell continues to bring comfort and support to families with tiny infants in the NICU through love, care, and excellence in her field. When a family leaves knowing they received the best treatment possible, Sarah magnifies Christ through critical care.
Read more about how God is directing and working through PCC faculty and alumni.