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Adventure awaits: These staff members thrive on the unexpected

By: Carolyn Kimmel

A day in the life at Penn State Health on the West Shore

Emma Anselmo’s day began like any other – she pulled on the uniform she had laid out the night before and hopped into her car by 5:15 a.m. to make it to the Penn State Health Life Lion Mechanicsburg station well before her 6 a.m. shift – never imagining this would be the day her fondest emergency call wish would come true.

Kristen Hays, left, talks to her team member, Danielle Evans. They are both wearing scrubs and face masks. Hays has long hair and a name badge hanging from her blouse.

Kristin Hays, left, nurse manager at Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center, shares a laugh with Danielle Evans, a registered nurse, during rounds on Monday, July 11, 2022.

Nursing at the bedside and beyond

With 11 years under her belt at Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center, Kristin Hays walks toward the hospital with the same sense of adventure she’s always felt.

“You could be walking into anything on any given day,” said Hays, who began her new post as the nurse manager on 7 Main – the 45-bed medical/surgical floor – in June after seven years working on that floor. Her early years at the hospital were spent as an X-ray technician before she decided she wanted to advance her medical career and went to nursing school.

She devotes the first part of her morning to checking in with night staff to resolve any questions and to ensure they have a listening ear for any concerns they have.

“We want to do whatever we need to do to help our staff,” said Hays, who juggles schedules and relies heavily on her team of staff and traveling nurses to meet the staffing shortages that most hospitals are now facing. “It’s satisfying to be able to advocate for my staff and take their suggestions or concerns to manager meetings. It’s important to me to be their voice.”

The cohesive, patient-first attitude of teamwork makes Hays optimistic about the future. “Our leadership really cares and is very involved, wanting to do everything they can to help the staff,” she said

Kristen Hays, left, talks to her team member, Danielle Evans. They are both wearing scrubs and face masks. Hays has long hair and a name badge hanging from her blouse.

Michelle Murdoch, right, laboratory manager at Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center, talks with Diane Kessler, a lab technician, on Thursday, July 7, 2022.

Following clues

The laboratory at Holy Spirit Medical Center may seem like a routine place where tests are run, well, routinely – but manager Michelle Murdoch cites the mysteries of her job as one of its best attributes.

“We’re testing for all kinds of things, putting puzzle pieces together,” said Murdoch, who originally wanted to be a Spanish teacher but became intrigued by the workings of the lab after doing part-time clerical work there. That was more than 30 years ago.

“I’m a little bit of an introvert, but I like to help people, so the lab is perfect,” she said “It’s very important we do our job correctly and in a timely manner because our results help physicians make accurate diagnoses, which means better patient care.”

The lab tests for anything from glucose and cholesterol levels to anemia, antibiotic-resistant infection, COVID-19, cardiac issues and complete blood counts that can reveal cancer, bacterial infections and tick-borne diseases.

On this day, a bilirubin test was repeatedly returning skewed results, and it was Murdoch’s job to figure out why.

“I’m a problem solver, so I enjoy working at something until I get it,” she said. “This is a great field to be in for those who are analytical and want to help people but not be involved with direct patient care.”

Many people who are interested in entering the medical field may not think about working in the lab because it operates behind the scenes and without a lot of notoriety – unless a pandemic hits, that is, Murdoch said.

“The last two years have definitely been a challenge but also an incredibly tangible way to feel like you’re helping people,” she said. “Plus, you’ll have absolutely no trouble finding a job.”

Penn State Health is hiring for inpatient nurse positions, Life Lion EMTs and paramedics, and laboratory technicians and assistants.

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