‘I Loved Being a Nurse’
Robin Dawson, RN, BSN, has had quite the journey to where she is today. Robin is a registered nurse and works at the UPMC LifeCenter, located in the River Valley Regional YMCA in Williamsport, Pa. Robin helps members of the community lead healthy lifestyles by providing health screenings, healthy cooking demonstrations, nurse consultations, and more.
Robin struggled with severe head and neck pain as a teenager, and no one seemed to know what it was. For years Robin struggled, and modified her lifestyle in a way that would reduce pain.
Robin was later diagnosed with Chiari malformation — her cerebellum was being pushed through an opening in her skull, causing her brain to almost feel ‘squished.’
After two surgeries in six days, and a yearlong recovery, Robin wanted to get back to nursing — her doctors didn’t feel the same way, though. She was told to take a sedentary job with minimal movement, but for Robin that just wasn’t an option.
After a few jobs which included minimal restrictions for Robin, she started working at the UPMC LifeCenter doing what she loves most — being a nurse who educates and teaches people.
Robin had been through her own struggles, and now helps community members with their own. She has helped discovered underlying conditions in patients from standard health screenings (i.e. high blood pressure), guided mental illness patients to seek help and get on the road to recovery, and has helped patients maintain cardiovascular conditions.
Today, Robin still has her limits and hardships, but the pain is managed, and she has no problem dancing in Zumba or lifting weights during Cardio Pump classes.
Visit the UPMC LifeCenter at 641 Walnut St., Williamsport, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or call 570-321-3222 for more information.
The Journey Continues
Alvin Welch, safety and security, has not only been with UPMC Cole for 26 years, but he’s been a team member in five different departments.
Alvin started in housekeeping, where his responsibilities included trash, linen services, and infectious waste disposal. From there, Alvin moved into sterile processing, where he took tools and supplies from the operating room (OR), and put them through the sterilization process in order for them to be used again. “I learned a lot of information there,” Alvin said.
After his time in sterile processing, Alvin moved into the purchasing department, where he worked at the loading dock and delivered items to the floors in the hospitals.
Alvin later became the manager of housekeeping and dietary, but eventually worked his way into safety and security, which is where he works today. Alvin now does safety and security checks to make sure all the patients at the hospital are safe during their stay. However, Alvin has hit a few bumps in the road.
Alvin was in a motorcycle accident July 28, 2018, and suffered head injuries, which caused motor skill issues. Alvin worked hard so he could get back to work, and after some time in the hospital and a few checks back to the department to make sure things were going well, Alvin was recently reinstated as a full time employee.
“Alvin continues to regain and improve his strength and motor skills every week. His dedication to UPMC Cole and his assigned responsibilities has remained very strong throughout this long recovery period,” Melvin Blake, director, Maintenance and Engineering, said.
Even though Alvin is still on the road to recovery, he is showing improvement every day and excelling at his job.
Developing and Caring for Our Future
Jennifer Dimarco always knew that she wanted to work in health care. “Everyone knows that being a nurse can be challenging, but it is rewarding work,” she said. “I believe that I was blessed with a talent and skills that led me to where I am today.”
Jennifer started her career in health care at age 16 as a certified nurse aide. Over the past 11 years, she has worked in various offices at UPMC Williamsport, and now works as an LPN in a family medicine clinic.
“I joined the family medicine team about seven years ago,” said Jennifer. “At that time, Dr. Kimberly Jones was coming out of residency looking to develop her own practice and she needed a nurse. I found family medicine interesting because you get to know the patients on a different level. The relationships become more like friends and family than in other care settings. It’s more than just a job.”
Office staff and colleagues describe Jennifer as a compassionate and hard-working nurse. They share stories of her going above-and-beyond her role, for example how she —on countless occasions— has offered to cover shifts of fill in when offices are short staffed. Her colleagues say the office wouldn’t be the same without her.
Jennifer also inspired her daughter Aaliyah, an employee with Aramark at UPMC Williamsport, to pursue a career in health care.
“A little while back, my family was present when a nurse that provided care to my mother was recognized with the DAISY Award for Exceptional Nurses. From our experience, my daughter realized the impact nurses, like her mother, and others in health care can have on patients and family members,” said Jennifer. “Our children are our future. In a time when nurses are in such high demand, it’s more important now than ever.”
Welcome to the Family
Dawn Simpkins, office assistant II at SH Family Medicine at Warren Ave at UPMC Susquehanna, didn’t always work in health care. After spending time working in retail, Dawn realized she wanted her work to have more meaning and she wanted to help people. Ten years later, she's putting her experience to good use as the “go-to” person to help onboard new UPMC Susquehanna medical group offices.
“I feel good knowing that I can make a difference,” said Dawn. “It’s not always easy for non-clinical staff to see how we affect the patient experience, but I know that what I do every day is helping others. No matter what, we are helping make a difference and it takes a full team approach to make an office successful.”
With her reputation as a leader in her field, Dawn has been requested multiple times to help fill staffing gaps in other offices in addition to assisting with onboarding.
“As staff, we're used to doing things a certain way and it’s not always easy to navigate the transitions,” said Dawn. “There are many moving pieces and it takes time to get everyone on the same page.”
When it comes to patient billing, Dawn says it’s rewarding to make sure billing is accurate.
“Billing is a sensitive subject with patients, and no one wants a surprise bill. We need to get it right the first time.”
It’s Never Too Late to Follow Your Passion
When Alfred Scott graduated from high school in 1975, he never thought he’d end up in college 31 years later – but he did.
“I grew up in a rural area. When my parent’s home caught on fire in 1984, I got first-hand experience with our local volunteer fire department and EMS,” said Al. “A few years later I decided to join the department and became an EMT. I enjoyed volunteering for a while and eventually took a part-time EMT job. It was enjoyable, but I wasn’t initially looking to make a career out of it.”
After 22 years as a factory worker, Al was up for a change. He decided to take a chance and put his experience as an EMT toward a career as a paramedic. In 2006, he enrolled as a paramedic student at Pennsylvania College of Technology (PCT).
“It’s different going back to school later in life,” said Al. “To be honest, I wish I would have done it sooner. School was challenging, but I realized I was where I wanted to be and doing what I wanted to do, so it was worth it.”
In his 10 years as a paramedic with Susquehanna Regional EMS, Al has run his fair share of calls and even saved a few lives – highlighted by his Sudden Cardiac Arrest Save Badge.
“They all don’t go as planned, but it’s our job in the field to make a difference in the little bit of time we have with the patients,” said Al. “We don’t always get to know how the patient does once they are in the care of the hospital, but we do our best and we leave them in good hands. It’s always a surprise when a patient or loved one recognizes us later in public, thanks us for what we’ve done, and shares the rest of their story. Those moments remind me why I love this job.”
Al is sharing his passion for prehospital care with other first-responders, EMTs, and the public as a CPR instructor. He is also a preceptor for the paramedic program at PCT and past recipient of the Preceptor of the Year Award.
“As a platoon chief, I don’t get to be in the field as often as I used to, but I still get a rush when I do go out,” said Al. “Being a preceptor allows me to do my duties as a chief while also getting out in the field. I get to combine my passions of being a provider as well as teaching others – it's a win-win – and it feels good to know that I’m contributing to the future of our industry.”