Katelyn Sheaff Husband, RN, '07 of Enfield, N.H., has a simple philosophy that guides her work as a critical care nurse in the Intermediate Special Care Unit (ISCU) at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC): Be there. Be there for the patient in the bed, distorted by tubes and drains, and be there for the entire constellation of family and friends who are anxious to hear news.
“I don't have just one patient on an assignment,” says Husband. “I can have up to 20 if there's a waiting room full of family. They're my patients, too.” This philosophy serves Husband and her patients well, and her effective caring, teaching and collaboration were recognized in 2011 when her colleagues and leadership nominated her for DHMC's Areté Award for Nursing Excellence.
“Katelyn is the picture of the Areté award—nursing excellence,” says Deanna Orfanidis, nursing director of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the ISCU.
Husband, who is halfway through the family nurse practitioner master's program at Rivier College in Nashua, N.H., was surprised to hear she had won the award.
“My manager and two educators sort of ambushed me in the office; I thought I was in trouble but couldn't think what I'd done wrong. I actually cried when they told me,” says Husband. “I don't make a big deal about what I do so when the focus is on me it's a shock, but it is nice to know what I do is appreciated. It made me even more proud of what I do on a daily basis. I wouldn't do anything else, that's for sure. I'm proud to be a nurse.”
Her spouse, Garrett Husband '07, a Sports Management major who earned his M.B.A. at Plymouth State University, also works at DHMC, in revenue management, and was in the audience at the ceremony that recognized Katelyn and others for their outstanding contributions to nursing.
The eight-bed ISCU, the level of care between the ICU and the floor, feels like its own little world in the universe of Dartmouth- Hitchcock. The patients there are either doing well and have come out of the ICU or are failing and need to go there. Husband provides care to a mix of medical and surgical cases: kidney and pancreas transplant recipients, patients with respiratory issues, GI bleeds, and neuro trauma cases—if they are not complicated by drains or intubation.
Nurse Tom Sweet, who has worked with Husband for two years, says she is a first-rate teammate. “You know when Katelyn's working that she's got your back. When she's in charge she's very conscientious about making sure everyone's okay. She's a great person and a great resource. Whatever her education was, you can tell it was quality because she's very good.”
The Road to DHMC
When Husband was 16 and her grandmother fell ill, she witnessed the difference nurses can make, not only for their patients but also for families. “Everyone was really upset and the nurse came in to speak to my family and said, 'Ask me whatever you want to know,'” recalls Husband. “I thought, Wow, that took a lot of guts. And she answered everything. She was just so caring with everybody.”
Though everyone in her family is a teacher, Husband knew she wanted a medical career. She broke the family mold of attending Keene State College, where her father was a professor, and chose to pursue a nursing degree instead of entering the field of education. When she met nursing faculty Shari Goldberg and Renee Vebell, she knew she'd found the right place to finish her college education. “Colby-Sawyer's Nursing Department is great; you can go to the faculty for anything, and I still do,” says Husband.
The college's affiliation with DHMC mattered, too. When Husband proudly drove her parents up to see the hospital for the first time, she says they were in awe. “They still can't believe what I do,” she laughs. “But when my sister's water broke early she was sent here; she was on bed rest for 30 days while my niece was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 61 days. Everyone stayed at my house and they got a taste of what I do in this big place. I think there's more appreciation now for what I do.”
And certainly Husband finds herself in the role of educator, teaching Colby- Sawyer students when they have an instructor on the floor and during their 12-week senior practicum. “The relationship between Colby-Sawyer and DHMC is amazing, and a lot of bright futures are coming out of it,” says Husband. “It makes me so excited. It's a great program and a great alliance.”
When Colby-Sawyer students walk through the doors of DHMC, what Husband and others notice is the personality aspect. “They're not afraid to go in a room and smile and say hi, introduce themselves, and take a set of vital signs. They have communication skills, which is the biggest thing,” says Husband. “They are very open and relaxed, and with other schools' students I don't see that. Colby-Sawyer students get a lot more bedside time with the patient. You learn a lot more. It's part of the clinical program, to introduce yourself and tell the patient what you're going to do before you do it. It's something I was taught, and I still do it, and I teach it to students who come here from schools other than Colby-Sawyer.”
“Colby-Sawyer got me to where I am and I'm thankful for that,” says Husband. “I love it more than anything; it's a beautiful campus and I love the program and the people there. It started a career that's such a blessing to be a part of. I love what I do, and it all started with Colby-Sawyer.”