Sarah A. Cypher, DNP, RN, CMSRN, NE-BC, is Director of Nursing for Surgical Units at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, where she directs nursing practice, education, professional development, research, and nursing services. She has collaborated with HGA on several research studies over the years to help create inpatient facilities that improve patients and staff wellbeing. In the following, she talks about her personal satisfaction in her chosen profession.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
A couple things inspired me.
My mother was a nurse and single mom with three children. She originally went to school for nursing, but then had children, and worked in a factory when we were young. As we got older, she went to night school to complete her nursing degree. I can still remember her wearing that traditional white nurses’ uniform with white hat. When she completed her degree, she continued her factory job while working as a nurse on weekends to help support us.
As a woman, I saw how hard my mother worked. I always wanted a career where I could support myself and my children the way my mother did. Nursing provided that stability. I also was always interested in science and anatomy, and I was drawn to a career where I could help others.
What is a typical shift like for you?
The job of a nursing leader is not that different from a bedside nurse—you are looking at how to best help patients. And that is what I do for my nursing team. I’m caring for the nursing team to assess how they are doing so they can best care for their patients. I focus on reevaluating what I need to provide for them. I look for ways to improve their ability to do their jobs, so they can focus on improving care for their patients. I essentially can care for those who care for others. Much of my time is dedicated to working in teams and creating relationships to improve the patient-staff experience.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
I was drawn to nursing leadership because I was always thinking and strategizing about how we can do things better. I decided that I could help my patients and more nurses by going into leadership. I have the resource to investigate problems that impact the caregiving process and develop sustainable solutions based on the “why.” Instead of solving challenges for one patient, I look across the entire healthcare system to find solutions for all patients and staff.
What do you do to find calm or rejuvenate yourself at work?
I like to look for dedicated, quiet alone time for an hour or two so I can tackle tasks. But I also like going to where staff is, relaxing with the other nurses, telling stories about what we did over the weekend, and enjoying a good laugh. As for a space within the hospital, I look for a place that has views to the outside and little noise distraction. It is important to see the sunlight and nature.
What do you want to tell young people seeking a nursing career?
Nursing offers a lot of flexibility in terms of location, hours, and job stability. You can do anything in nursing. But nursing is not for everyone. Nursing calls for a certain innate quality—a passion for caring for others. It’s rewarding but hard work—but there are also many moments throughout the day that make the hard work worth it.
If not a nurse, what would you be?
It depends on the stage of my life. Throughout my childhood, I went from wanting to be a school teacher in kindergarten to a figure skater in grade school, and later a theatrical artist in middle school. Then I thought I would be a lawyer, but by junior year of high school I decided on a medical career. I’ve been in my current nursing leadership position since 2016 and have been a nurse since 2006. Being in leadership and seeing your patients and staff improve every day is very satisfying. When I go to the nursing unit and hear staff laughing, I can see that they are enjoying their jobs. There is no greater satisfaction than that.
About the Series
The World Health Organization (W.H.O) has designated 2020 the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Over the next several months, we will celebrate nurses’ contributions to the healthcare profession through a series of conversations with top nurse across specialties. Read our first conversation in the series, Celebrating the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, with HGA’s Kara Freihoefer, Director of Research, and Terri Zborowsky, Evidence-Based Design Researcher and Registered Nurse, who discuss the influence nurses have had on their professional and personal lives.