Congratulations to Stephen L. Howell DNP, ANP-BC, ACHPN who recently received the UAB Advance Practice Clinical Excellence Award in Nursing. When asked, Dr. Howell said he was overwhelmed and humbled by the award and acknowledged that the honor was not wholly his own. He goes on to say, “I could not do what I do without the wonderful team of people at UAB that I collaborate with on a daily basis. This award is in recognition of the combined efforts of many people who desire to offer the best quality of care to the patients and families that we serve.”
Dr. Howell is the Lead Nurse Practitioner at the UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care and a Nursing Instructor in the UAB School of Nursing.
Dr. Howell’s passion for palliative care began while he was in Mongolia serving in the Peace Corps, as a new nurse he experienced how limited access to medical technology and medications impacted the experience of suffering for his patients and their families. As a clinician and caregiver Howell knew, that as a nurse, he could meaningfully contribute to his patient’s well-being – even as they faced the end of their lives. Upon returning to the United States, Howell worked as a staff nurse in the UAB Medical Intensive Unit where his interest in palliative care continued. The majority of Howell’s patients were experiencing acute exacerbations and/or complications of chronic illness and often times were dying. Howell says that there were missed opportunities for these patients that may have prepared them and their families for what they were experiencing. The need for competent and comprehensive palliative care preparation was clear to Howell and he believed that nurses were an integral and essential part of the process.
Knowing that he wanted to do more, Howell went back to school at the UAB School of Nursing to earn both a Masters in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice as well as certification as an Advanced Practice Nurse in Hospice and Palliative Care. Howell’s current position provides him the opportunity to build upon the collaborative efforts between the School of Nursing and the Center for Palliative and Supportive Care and he has expanded his clinical role to include the development and implementation of palliative education opportunities for nursing students. Dr. Howell credits School of Nursing Dean, Doreen Harper and Center for Palliative and Supportive Care’s Director, Dr. Rodney Tucker for facilitating and supporting the growing inter-professional and educational collaboration of Palliative Care at UAB.
Howell says that the rewards of being a Palliative Care nurse are many and goes on to say, “…at the end of the day, knowing that either I have helped ease the burden of suffering in some small way or that I have encouraged another team member or student to support a patient or family is all that I need to feel accomplished.” For Howell, palliative care is so much more than a job - It is a way of thinking and responding to the world around him in a compassionate and caring way.