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CCH Legend strives to be voice for rural nursing, healthcare

CCH Legend strives to be voice for rural nursing, healthcare

Sue Howard moved to Gillette in the late 70s after graduating from the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. She remembers a time when young, expectant mothers would stop at Campbell County Health in labor and ask for a nurse to evaluate them to decide if they had enough time to drive to Sheridan for delivery.

This was before I-90 was built, so the drive was on a two-lane highway.

"We didn't have an OB doctor at CCMH, so people would try to make it to Sheridan to have their baby," Sue said. "I remember that I'd tell them that there was a possibility they would make it in time. But, I'd also look at the fathers and tell them that they may need to pull over on the highway and help their wife deliver their baby, and list what supplies they would need to do this. By the time I'd tell them that they'd need scissors because they would have to clamp and cut the umbilical cord, they often decided to stay in Gillette."

After 39 years as a nurse, in Gillette, Sue is filled with stories like this, and she uses these stories to relate to the students in the classes she has taught over the years. As the hospital has grown, Sue has also grown. "My career and the hospital are closely tied together," she said.

In June, Sue, RN, BSN, MSN, MSHSA, is retiring from CCH. Before she goes, we wanted to acknowledge her time with the CCH Legend Award. For those who don't know, CCH defined a Legend as, "those people who have left a permanent impression on our minds because of their deeds and actions. Ongoing demonstration of hard work, compassion, and a reputation for greatness make someone a legend."

Sue Howard

Sue was practically born to be in healthcare. Her grandfather was a general surgeon and her grandmother and mother were nurses—who all graduated from the University of Minnesota. At the tender age of 5, her grandparents gave her a nurse's uniform, and she never considered the option of becoming anything else. Until she took a job in the Professional Development department at Campbell County Health and found her true calling–teaching. For over 14 years, Sue has helped healthcare professionals develop the knowledge and values that every provider needs to have to deliver quality care to their patients.

Sue began her career with CCH when there were only two nurses in the entire hospital. This meant she worked in every area from the Emergency Department to the Medical/Surgical Unit and OB to Surgery, and everything in-between. She's seen nursing evolve from a general nursing approach to one where nurses have become more specialized.

Sue's teaching resume is quite impressive as well. She wrote the original curriculum for CCH's Phlebotomy Class, for the Wyoming CNA II classes, and the State's Medical Aid Certified classes. She also wrote the skills portion of the CCH medical assistant class and teaches Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and and obstetrics-based Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS OB).

"Sue instills the passion she has for the nursing profession to all of her students," says Rose Rennell, CCH Employee Health Nurse, and also a CCH Legend. "She demands quality patient care in every task or element she teaches. She's an exemplary role model for her students."

Sue is somewhat of a historian, and has spent years researching and learning all that she can about Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern day nursing. "Much of what Florence taught was simply manners and customer service," says Sue. "She showed her students the importance of those behaviors for improving the quality of life of patients as well as healing them. To help others learn those values in the beginning of their career is so important and I'm grateful to be a part of that. I want them to know that they are responsible for the safety and dignity of every patient, resident and co-worker—every time, every day."

Sue has certainly made a difference in the lives of her students.

"I love how Sue talked to me like I was on the same level as she is; there's so much to learn from her," says Candy Nelson, a CNA at Pioneer Manor who took a medical assistant class from Sue. "She's so encouraging, and she really makes you feel like what you are doing is noticed and makes a difference. I am happy I learned from her."

Sue is not only considered a legend at CCH, she's also been quite legendary in the nursing profession. Sue is involved with the Wyoming Nurses Association (WNA), and has served as its district and state president, and has served on the WNA board for many years. As part of her involvement with WNA, she served on the American Nurses Association committee to update the Scope and Standards of Practice for professional nurses, which defines the role of nurses in healthcare. Sue is also involved with the Wyoming Nurse Leaders Institute (WNLI), which she helped found with another CCH employee, Veronica Taylor, Director of Professional Development, Infection Prevention and Disaster Preparedness, with a Robert Wood Johnson Grant. This program is loosely based off of the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce Gillette Area Leadership Institute, of which she is a graduate, and gathers nursing professionals from across the state together four times a year to help them with mentors, network with other nurses, and develop nursing leadership. Sue was also appointed to the Wyoming State Board of Nursing by Gov. Matt Mead in 2015.

"In all of the boards and committees that I am privileged to be a part of, I try to be a voice for rural nursing and healthcare," says Sue. "Nurses in rural areas are in a unique role. We can't allow regulations to be written only by professionals or legislators from metropolitan areas and major universities. Rural nurses have to speak up."

Sue is also very involved with the First United Methodist Church of Gillette. Her involvement with the church is rather unique: she writes comedies that the church parishioners perform. Her mother has encouraged Sue to write a book with all of her comedies, and she's looking forward to accomplishing that during her retirement.

While Sue says she will miss her students after retiring, she also said that she'd be happy to help teach from time to time. That is, when she's not busy with WNA, WNLI, or the State Board of Nursing, all of which she will still be involved with.

What she is really looking forward to most is having the freedom to spend more time with her husband, John, a local certified public accountant who is also retiring soon, and being a grandmother to her son Keith's children, Abbygayle, 10, and Alexzander, 2, which she says is the "best job in the world." Sue and John plan to spend time camping and hiking in the mountains, and hope to travel to Grand Canyon, Africa, Galapagos Islands, and Europe. She's also looking forward to spending time with her daughter, Kristin, who is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and also graduated from the University of Minnesota, in Denver.

Sue, you have carved out quite an impressive nursing career for yourself, and helped forge paths for thousands of other nurses and healthcare professionals that you've taught in your 39 years with CCH. Thank you for your dedication, your service, and for your commitment to our organization. Enjoy your retirement.